30 November 2010
What's New this month? Scroll down to find out
Fandango is finally home in Airlie Beach, located in Australia's tropical Whitsundays area.
Look at those storm clouds! The wet is early this year but we're looking forward to cruising the 74 islands and diving on the Great Barrier Reef.
30 Nov 2010
>Added Album "New Caledonia"
>Added Album "Fiji & Tonga"
>Added Crew to "Meet the Crew 2010"
22 Nov 2010
> Added blog "Mackay to Airlie Beach"
> Added blog "New Caledonia to Oz"
> Added blog "Fiji to New Caledonia"
Mackay to Airlie Beach
22 November 2010
Log reading 22,220 nautical miles
The drive back to Airlie was interesting. It was good to be back home and see everything with fresh eyes. There had been some changes to the landscape. Soon Fandango was to complete her final step to her new home but for the next week I was on cloud nine as I temporarily swallowed the anchor.
The wet had arrived early and it rained everyday, sometimes very heavily. The following weekend it looked like being a little lighter and an opportunity to get Fandango up to Airlie. Our very good neighbours David and Linda, who had sailed with me around Morocco last year, joined Heather and I in moving Fandango to her new home.
We overnighted in a nice bay on Goldsmith Island. As with our last day to Mackay, the weather moved around us. Blue sky occasional overhead and dark rain clouds all around. We even saw lightening but it was not for us. Somebody was looking after us. Approaching Airlie up the Molle passage we saw a pair of turtles trying to mate in the water, an amazing sight.
Abel Point Marina was now close, the main was dropped and the headsail furled. I had done this hundreds of times before on other people's boats here but this time it felt a bit odd. We entered the marina to go into a very comfortable large pen. Our umbrella moved with us and brought a dry spell to our patient friends waiting by the berth. Champagne corks popped, some nibbles came out, a few photos and ... at 1340 hours on Sunday, November 14th 2010, it was mission completed.
And the can openers ...
After the loss of 9 can openers, Fandango had logged 22,220 nautical miles, approx 40,000 kilometres and equivalent to the circumference of the earth around the equator. Fandango spent two years on the water, including 97 days sailing through the night. Of her many passages, the longest was 19 days. She had been tested by 50 knot gusts and six metre seas. Separate volcanic eruptions had dusted her decks with ash and washed her hull with ash and pumice.
Would I do it again? No, because I have done it. Would I like to do something similar in the future? Perhaps not as long but most definitely.
My most uplifting moments include being on watch late at night and marvelling at a star-filled sky covering the ocean. I have seen creatures, landscapes, cloud formations and sunsets that defy description. Antiquity and culture have been fascinating. It's been sensational to see all these before we do any more damage to this delicate planet.
Most important of all, a very big thank you from Heather and me to those that joined Fandango on her voyage, as well as to those that supported her from afar. Thank you so much for your help, the photos and the happy memories. I wish Heather could have accompanied me for more than the six months that she did but the passages are not her idea of fun. Her support and patience were colossal.
New Caledonia to Oz
22 November 2010
Log reading 22,150 nautical miles
Baie d'Oro, Ile des Pins, New Caledonia
I felt a mixture of excitement as we prepared for the final leg and some sadness that this was to be the last time the anchor would be weighed before Oz. We waved farewell to Lydie and Veronique, who were going to stay on the island, and hurried to get through the big reef system in good light.
It was a six day leg of motor-sailing which made it hard to sleep in the aft cabin, even with good wax earplugs. Winds improved a couple of times to allow us some sailing during the day, which helped our fuel rationing. We even got the cruising chute up tacked to the prod as well as poled out on bamboozle.
The grib files didn't look too bad but Mission Control reported that a storm was brewing for us and we had to keep up a good speed to arrive before it burst. The wet was much earlier in Oz than in previous years and more like the early eighties. An exceptional La Nina was to blame. The barometer held up reasonably well but the sky was becoming more overcast, with a few telltale signs of a likely blow.
Late one afternoon a booby decided to rest on our prod (an extended bowsprit used for attaching one end of the cruising chute, a type of spinnaker). The chute was down and I was delighted to find him or her still with us the following morning. Unfurling the headsail was not appreciated and I was glared at in no uncertain terms. Later it took to the air but I never saw it leave and therefore did not get a chance to check its booties (red or blue feet) or direction of travel. As we approached the Great Barrier Reef, a few more birds were sighted.
We were now in Australian waters and for the first time on the voyage I did not need a courtesy flag. The tide can be a big problem going up the wide channel between the GBR and the mainland. As we rounded the reef we were pleased that the moon phase gave us lesser tides and therefore a better run to Mackay. We still needed motor and sail to make good time and eventually reached Mackay marina to tie up at 2230 hrs on November 3rd. The bad weather had moved around us and although overcast with a sprinkle or two, we were left unscathed.
The weather worsened later that night and the following day we were glad that we were in. That night our good fortune was toasted with a legendary Atlas and all slept well.
Fandango had been told to tie up in a supposedly restricted immigration area and not leave the boat. A customs patrol boat was parked next to us and the following morning we braced ourselves for the expected circus. At 0830 nobody came apart from Cheryl and Di who lived in Mackay (Di sailed with us in Fiji). Cheryl went over to the customs and quarantine office at 0900 and was told that customs would let quarantine inspect the boat for them and that, despite two confirmed emails to Brisbane head office, local quarantine officers had not been told that we were waiting for them.
Two quarantine officers soon arrived and to our relief they were polite, professional and helpful. Having sacrificed a few minor items of food we were cleared to report to the customs office. Here again we found the officer polite, professional and helpful. Where were all the jackbooted gorillas we had been warned about? Entrapment, rough handling and agro - not a whiff. I would like to say that both quarantine and customs officers were exemplary but I won't mention their names in case their workmates give them a hard time. The weather was poor and there was no lively Linda but this reception made up for it.
We had lunch at the Mackay Sailing Club and after moving the boat to another pen the others left leaving me to tidy up until fairly late. I wanted a last night with Fandango on my own and there were things to do the following morning. She had been my home for the last nineteen months and tomorrow it would change. Heather arrived from Airlie the next morning. It was a very special moment. The weather changed from horrible to sunshine.
Fiji to New Caledonia
21 November 2010
Log reading 21,078 nautical miles
Just another bit of Paradise in the Yasawas, Fiji
It was time to leave for New Caledonia but not without a last attempt to tap into the nightlife that we had been assured was waiting for us just outside Nadi at the Ice Bar and Ed's, on the road to Lautoka. We tried the bars, chatted to the locals but Las Vegas it wasn't. A bit disappointed we returned in the wee hours to Fandango, anchored patiently off the beach near the Travellers Beach Resort. After only a few hours of shuteye, we farewelled Di for her flight back to Mackay.
Problem. Our clearance was held up because a new Aussie crew member could not get clearance from another boat he was minding. One or more of their crew were being sought by Customs and Immigration for breaches of protocol and we had come under suspicion by wanting to accept him. I had waited for some time in the immigration office in Lautoka the previous day, using my well practised virtual-meditational mode to keep me floating above the procedural quagmire. Judging by her expression, the Queen must have been good at it too for the taking of her framed photograph that hung above me. We shared a moment in another dimension.
Ear splitting reggae music in the bus on the way back to the beach reminded me of the Caribbean. Here and there a mongoose could be seen popping between the stands of sugar cane. Unsightly rubbish dropped or dumped by people who don't care. Old men and dogs waiting for something. Chickens and children scratching in the dirt near houses that look as if they would fall over in the first puff of wind. Locals walking slowly on the footpath, abandoned in time.
The next day we waited for hours on the beach near Fandango, along with no less than eight officials who just sat around doing absolutely nothing. No work ethic and poor organisation is why Fiji will remain a basket case. Although out of the Commonwealth, they still have the Union Jack as part of their flag and their currency and government offices adorned with HM's visage.
Our patience was eventually rewarded and Fandango was cleared to sail the seas once more but our prospective new crew member was not. Bernard, Joy and I left with the iron sail propelling us through a grey listless, late afternoon. We made the outer reef at dusk but the passage was wide and posed no threat.
I had wanted to visit Vanuatu or at least stop for a day at Tanna but it was not to be. Various factors, including weather and Bernard's deadline, kept Fandango motor sailing on to New Caledonia.
After a few days, we saw a whale in the distance. Despite their brief appearance, they bring so much excitement to everyone on board and we wanted to communicate like two passing boats waving to each other. Excitement of a different kind was caused by slicks of brown water peppered with particles of pumice. We were travelling over underwater volcanoes that were obviously doing their thing down there.
Light winds kept us motor-sailing most of the way until we entered New Caledonia's outer reef just before light faded. A suitable anchorage and a can of Atlas (see earlier blog) soon had us in high spirits, despite the rain.
Casualties for this leg included the tacho and hour meter again, a Lewmar hatch seal, the anchor light, the engine compartment blower, a very small leak where the deck joins the hull along with the usual wear and tear of lines. Oh, and another can opener and gas lighter for the cooker.
The next day Fandango passed and radio checked a dismasted boat, which reminded us never to be complacent. Arriving at Noumea's Port Moselle marina, we were greeted by our mates from SY Ghost and lively Linda, the marina's line handler. When I think of the many appalling marinas that treat you like garbage, welcoming ones stick out like the proverbials. Linda, a lovely brown skinned lass with a mile wide smile, bubbled over with a welcome that made you feel you had just circumnavigated the universe and returned to a utopian world. Song birds and bright flowers seemed to hover around her shining golden aura and the clouds parted above her, wherever she went. OK, OK but during our stay she always grinned and gave me and others a warm follow up greeting as she hurried about the pontoons. The world desperately needs more Lindas and later that day I told the marina office they should make her President.
Linda's glow moved to another pontoon and we were required to wait until the usual circus had checked our papers. The quarantine lass relieved us of some items but we had been forewarned and had feasted earlier on the offending items of fresh produce, cheeses and smoked meats etc.
Wifi was a problem here, as it usually is, and was down for days. There's not a lot to Noumea. As expected, the French live like Europeans and the Kanaks creep around like the underdogs. At night guards check them but not us. They often wear hooded track suits, suggesting that they sleep where we see them in the small parks during the day.
In an effort to reach the cultural centre, I noted that there were very few taxis on the main road. There were more busses than I could count but not the one I wanted. Admittedly, counting was a bit harder for me than usual because of a pontoon party next to our boat that was hosted by Ghost the previous night and which lasted until 4.30 am. Joy came through in reasonable shape and had earned a big grin from his evening with a Swiss lass but Bernard had another near death experience and opted out of bus watching after sun up.
Lydie and Veronique who christened Fandango with champagne in Les Sables d'Olonne early 2008, came over from Oz to sail with us for a few days. Being French they had a good nose for cheese and fine food and wine.
We decided to check out of New Caledonia before leaving Noumea. They allow a few days before you have to actually leave NC's waters. It saves us going back to Noumea and we also get a piece of paper that allows us to buy duty free fuel. We also had to go to two government buildings to get pieces of paper that we took to the harbour master, who simply took two of them and gave us one of his. You have to do this in the right order or go back and start again. Sacre blue!
We had a roughish trip to an anchorage on our way to the Ile des Pins. Unfortunately the weather was not that kind and we lost the appetite for swimming off the back of the boat but not for the food.
We anchored as close as we could to the smaller jetty in Kuto Bay on the Ile des Pins. It's a lovely island and hasn't been spoilt with billboards and inappropriate development. The five of us dined well and tried the local escargot that have huge shells for their small-sized but tasty gastronomic contribution.
A car was hired and Veronique drove us along almost every road during a single day. As you would expect, there are pine trees everywhere and they look a little odd in the tropics, almost prehistoric. The grottoes were fascinating, especially the one used a long time ago by La Reine Hortense for her meetings with local chiefs. The old prison was in neglected ruins and thick vegetation made it hard to walk around. Life here seemed enjoyably slow. However, I was disappointed to see that in putting up ugly new concrete power lines along the sides of roads, they had cleared a large swathe of old growth trees and natural vegetation along these roads in the process. Power lines in a 50 metre clearing are ugly enough but in a cyclone area they are absurd. Tight budgets and minds always seem to outweigh common sense for the future and I would doubt if they saved much money over a trench that could carry other services.
This place is on the cruise ship route. They seem to follow us to many popular spots on our journey. The routine is usually the same if the ship can't tie up to a dock. The punters, carrying their backpacks of photo and survival gear, are bundled into enclosed lifeboats and unloaded ashore to be greeted by a grass skirted, drum pounding, trinket selling group of indigenous people hired for the occasion. "Honey, did you pack my water bottle and spare batteries?" "Oh my god, will you look at that!" They get an hour or two to see what needs at least two full days and then they are herded back into the next ferry lifeboat.
Not long now until we ferry ourselves back to Oz.
13 October 2010
Log reading 20,362 nautical miles
Religion was as strong here as in Tonga. Probably just as well because we would have been in the pot if they had remained cannibals. Fandango Salad (see earlier blog) would have a frightening new recipe. Not good for much needed tourism.
First stop after Savusavu was Coconut point for lunch then murky Bua Bay for the night. Fiji was infested with coral and we had our first (and hopefully last) contact here, resulting in a scrape on the keel. Nothing serious as we had been proceeding slowly.
The next day we reached Cukuvou "Harbour" on Yadua Island. A nice sandy beach but very windy. We were the first of the four boats there to leave and had an excellent run to the caves at Sawa-i-Lau. We visited the village and offered our first sevusevu from our stock of yaqona roots which are used for making kava. We returned with some specific medical and other presents.
The keeper of the caves did not tell us about the dive through, so ask if you go there. It was disappointing to find that few things are made in the village nowadays. Mostly Chinese junk jewellery offered at twice the price you can buy it in town.
The famous "Blue Lagoon" was our next bit of paradise. Another resort had been built but the green hut for a local family selling traditional food was still there. Blue Lagoon Cruises land nearby every week. It was still very enjoyable, but for how long?
Somosomo Bay had a good snorkelling spot that was our goal. We noticed two surf ski paddlers in the middle of the bay and left them to it until they started whistling. As we approached it appeared that they had been trying to stop one of the craft from sinking. Bernard hopped (well, not quite "hopped", if you know Bernard) into Thunderbird 1 (alias "Dingo" our tender) and the rescue was "go". A few minutes later the craft was hoisted aboard and a shy, shivering teenage girl with a bleeding toe was ushered into the cockpit. Her uncle then joined us but had damaged his hip. Some first aid, a few presents for their family and big grins all round as we motored back to their village.
We presented sevusevu and were surprised to find that this was one of those rare cases where the chief was a woman. Her husband in the next village had died so she returned to her village. Being a chief's daughter she became the chief and her entourage were female too. She was very elderly and more traditional, so the ceremony was done in Fijian and with more feeling than the younger chiefs can be bothered with.
The village was full of kids and women but few men. Had they eaten them? Why were they looking at big Bernard like that? No, they had left or were leaving for their monthly "secret men's business" on another part of the island. The women have one too, a bit like our aborigines.
We wandered around and the kids had fun with Bernard. Heather and I were taken by a few youngsters to see the pigs in bamboo pens. We also saw a large turtle shell being scraped for meat. No wonder the nearby reefs had only small fish and we never saw a turtle.
The usual, mostly Chinese made junk jewellery at crazy prices was offered. So sad.
We went away from the village to enjoy some really good snorkelling nearby. Afterwards, on our way south we stopped to look for manta rays. Only one was seen.
We found a superb spot just south of Waya Island. Good coral and fish life, all to our selves in this spot not marked on the chart as an anchorage. The next day we set off for Mana Island but the wind came up just as we were entering the slalom course channel to get into the lagoon. Realising that this anchorage would not be pleasant in these winds, we headed further south for Musket Cove with its variety of resorts. It rained heavily at times that night. The yachties' bar has been modernised a little but a do it yourself barbecue deal is still available. We caught up with others that we had met previously.
Over to try out newish Port Denauru. Nearly touched bottom on the way in and found the anchorage gave us about 200mm of clearance over the mud at low tide. PD has almost everything you could need including a F$3.00 bar (about AUD 1.80) for a cold mug of the local amber fluid. PD also had soot in the air from burning off the nearby sugar cane. This made a mess of Fandango's decks and will join bits of Monserrat (see earlier blog) to keep us busy cleaning whenever it rains. The curries have been excellent but Indian restaurants and shops are more likely to surcharge you for using a credit card.
Nadi is a short cab drive away and is still a hole, perhaps more so. Looking at labels in shops there and in PD, revealed that most of the clothing is now made in China or Thailand.
Party animal Bernard went off for a couple of nights on the town whilst Heather and I celebrated only a month to go before Fandango arrived in Airlie Beach.
Heather flew back to Oz and Di came over from MacKay. Joy was staying in the same hotel as Bernard and asked to come along for our second circuit around the local isles. He liked it so much he decided to stay on 'till Mackay.
Fandango left Port Denauru, revisited some spots and tried others. We caught an excellent Spanish mackerel and Bernard did wonders with curried fish. The weather was perfect but when we got back to Musket Cove it rained even more than on the first visit.
Neiafu, Tonga to Savusavu, Fiji
13 October 2010
Log reading 20,012 nautical miles
A two night passage brought us to Taveuni, Fiji, where we decided to park around the corner for the night. On the way, we saw a small whale and a blue footed booby. The wind was strong enough to put a small tear in the mainsail when we gybed to creep up the leeward side of the island to look for a spot. Suddenly the radio blurted out "Calling the white boat ... ". We looked around and there was no other boat. Was it a trap or another of those spooky things that happen at sea? Again we were called and this time we replied. It was from a thatched resort hidden by the trees offering us a mooring. Trouble was, even with binos, we couldn't see the sender of such a welcoming message. Another mile and some directions gave us lock-on to the Paradise Resort, which was just that. We drank icy cold Vonu beers in the warm pool with staff members coming to meet us and remembering our names. Dinner was excellent. Apparently the fifth best dive site in the world was only a few hours away but the weather was not good so we decided to leave for Savusavu the next day and check in to Fiji.
Fandango and crew were told to remain on her mooring until all four officials had visited us. Three came and went but happy hour at the Copra Shed bar was beckoning. The agricultural chappie had to wait until the following day to ask if we had any pests on board. Fiji is certainly big on paperwork.
Heather and I revisited nearby Daku resort where she had been on a painting workshop some years earlier. Andres was short of cash and decided to head back to Airlie.
It rained a lot but that did not stop Bernard from celebrating his birthday. And then we discovered Atlas beer. This Dutch beer was close to its use by date and had been dumped at the local supermarket. At about AUD 1.20 for 500ml of 8.5% alcohol beer, it was labelled as "Extra Sterk" and sterk it certainly was! After sampling a couple, we went back and bought what they had left. Fandango was probably a few millimetres deeper in the water now and prompted serious discussion as to whether the depth meter should show true water depth or water below the keel. A couple of these depth charges and you have a bit of bother reading the instruments anyway or even navigating around the cockpit.
Papeete, Tahiti to Vavau, Tonga
13 October 2010
Log reading 19,534 nautical miles
View from Malafakalava
Some info for Tahitian trivia buffs: bosom in the local language is "titi".
Andres arrived after a busy Race Week in the Whitsundays but had an awkward journey and hassle because the French Polynesian government's policy of requiring return airfares for all non-EU passport holders. The travel agent had not warned him and a skipper's letter was no good. Poor lad had to part with most of his spending money at the airport. It would take six weeks after he left Tahiti left to get it back.
It was so good to be free of the marina at last. Freshening winds helped us reach sheltered Cook Bay on Moorea. The following day we parked by the fringing reef, where I managed to don diving kit and clean the hull. The water was very clear but the wind and tide required a line rigged from the bow.
Now all sleek again, Fandango visited Opunohu Bay before overnighting to Tairineneva village on Raiatea. Still very gusty but good running for our trip to Bora Bora, where so many resorts have bures on poles over the turquoise water. The lagoon was beautiful and the massive rock in the middle of the island very impressive although not as much as the hillscape of Moorea.
We moored at the Bora Bora "Yacht Club". The latter part more a suggestion rather that a proper title. This tag is a magnet for yachties and is used all round the world to lure the lads in for a lager.
We did two superb dives; the first sighted a big moray eel and the second plenty of sharks, before heading over to famous Bloody Mary's "Yacht Club", ditto. The RAF (rich and famous) dine here, judging by the autographed photos of many well known names. I'm a RIF (reduced in funds) but was welcomed anyway into the sandy floored restaurant for dinner. Very nice and not too pricey.
The 4WD trip around the island and up to a Second World War gun emplacement was good fun and offered great views over the lagoon and fringing reef.
Fandango was now off to Tonga with at least one stop but a calm start for the first few days gave way to strengthening winds and building seas. For the last few days we had thirty to forty knot winds and five to six metre waves breaking on the port quarter. Comfort and safety persuaded me not to head up (turn the boat more into the wind and waves) to hold our course for Nuie. We shot past Palmerston Island, where shelter was doubtful and proceeded to Vavau at the top end of the Tonga group. Photos simply do not convey the situation. Imagine a two storey flat block approaching fast from astern and lifting you up as it passes underneath, with a wet slap on your tail to let you know who's boss. Fandango handled it so well, either steering by hand or autopilot, we were extremely impressed. Not so with the tacho and engine hour meter, which went on the blink again during the quiet spell at the beginning of the trip. So much for the repair job in Papeete.
We arrived just before dawn and held off until we could see clearly to reach Neiafu, the only port here. These islands were very different from what we were used to. Mostly flat topped at around 150 metres. The locals were exceptionally friendly and the brown-eyed girls beautiful. Gauguin should have lived here. Well fed pigs and chickens roamed everywhere. Instead of the haves and have-nots of French Polynesia, the Tongans seemed proud and happy. We have heard better church singing but they were singing their hearts out. Jesus would still have been impressed. Religion seemed to be very strong in regional areas throughout the Pacific. Quilts and fake flowers in the cemeteries and every flavour of Christianity competing with their church facades.
My computer died and internet access was a problem here as everywhere.
After much planning, I was excited to see Heather again and we retreated to the Hilltop hotel to catch up for a couple of days. Then Bernard arrived a few days later. All four of us on board from the Whitsundays.
We sailed out and sampled a few anchorages in the group and could see why a Kiwi sailor had been coming here for years on his own to explore the waters and sandy beaches. On the way back to Neiafu we rowed (how else do you keep the beer belly under control?) to the very beautiful miniscule resort island of (wait for it) Malafakalava. The "sea chicken" toasted sandwiches were excellent with the icy cold beers, as we gazed out over the vivid colours of the water.
Heather and I met up with a former repeat competitor in the rugged Wildtrek Winter Classic, around twenty five years ago. The cold wet conditions of that event versus the balmy evenings of this paradise... and the winner is ...
Andres was in love with a girl from another boat but instead of the last evening in Neiafu following its hoped for course, they spent the night helping to fight a house fire. The house was completely destroyed by the time the last bucket was thrown in the morning but our hero was clearly still smouldering when the sooty couple in their evening clothes returned not long before we were due to sail for Tonga.
10 August 2010
Don't forget to wear your frangipani behind the correct ear.
The days turned into weeks as Fandango was stuck in the marina and I tried to get numerous things repaired. Yanmar finally agreed to honour its warranty on the gear box as well as paying for a major realignment. It seems that Jeanneau may have installed the wrong gearbox in some boats. Yanmar in Tahiti and Melbourne have been very helpful. So too Sheppard's, the selling dealer in Gibraltar. Details are on the Jeanneau Owners website. However not a word from Jeanneau.
The main has three reefing points and has been up and down like a whore's drawers for many months now. I succumbed to single line reefing because it was so much easier for a single person on watch, eyeing approaching squalls or changes in wind strength. However, there is a price to pay for convenience and off to the sailmaker she went. It takes longer than expected and the price quoted was a mistake. More hassle.
The water was the clearest I have ever seen in a marina. Just as well, because Brad and I dived in it trying to fix the rudder on Ghost. In the evenings some people were even pushed or fell into it.
The jam sessions and well lubricated evenings continued while we all waited. It made me grin every time we went to the Dinghy Bar and ordered "une grande blonde, s'il vous plait". A BBQ outside one boat spilled over into a big party on a monster gin palace. I found it surprisingly easy to access the non-party areas of the boat. It was more like a ship. It was a heavy night and I was one of those who lost their shoes. Perry's, they looked good on the top but the soles had gone and were peeling off anyway. I hope you trip over in them whoever you are!
Papeete has a some strange sights. One was in a small park with a memorial to the eminent Bougainville, who gave his name to the plant, and two guns from WWI were displayed. A chicken wandered around, an escapee from the adjoining shantytown, but waving at passers-by was the fattest woman I have ever seen. She sat on a bench in tight slacks and a bra that would be useful when going to the supermarket. You have to buy polythene bags here.
Visitors to French Polynesia will notice that there are three sexes here. Traditionally, I was told, the first born male was brought up as a female or mahu. The chiefs often kept one or two handy. There are also raerae and other transvestite and homosexual subcultures but it's a bit complicated, so you had better Google it. If you were tempted to the "dark" side of town after sunset (see previous blog) you would find some of these charming people, amongst others, ready to help you spend your money on a good time. You meet mahus in many roles eg as waitresses. On the other hand, some males wear their hair tied up but they are definitely males and have the necessary tribal tattoos. It must have been very confusing for Cap'n Cook's lads.
It has been three months since we all met up in Panama. After nearly three weeks tied up here, the crew's cash was getting low. If repairs took any longer, I was thinking of wintering here and having more time next year. Edo was still mildly ill after picking up a parasite in Isabella (Galapagos) and flew to Australia to get it sorted out and secure a job. Fab and Shirley, normally professional crew, have been hired by two posh boats that we have been meeting up with along the way. Surprisingly, suitable crew here were as scarce as hen's teeth. We will meet up with them again in Tonga but the money was too good and they are likely to stay on. Had we been able to drop in just for a look around and supplies, things might have been different.
Anyway, Fandango can now motor forwards again and new crew are on the way. A few stops in the Society Islands, including Bora Bora, and then direct to Tonga where Heather joins me for the trip to Fiji. Aitutaki, Raratonga and Niue would have been nice but anchorages are not good in two of them. Also I need to get back onto schedule so that Heather doesn't have long to wait in Tonga. I don't think a bone through her nose would suit her. After Fiji, it's Vanuatu and New Caledonia before heading for Mackay, Queensland. So many islands to see.
Hiva Oa, The Marquesas to Papeete, Tahiti
26 July 2010
Log reading 17,927 nautical miles
A dragon resting over the Bay of Virgins
Twenty five litres of diesel was all they could spare at Atuona due to a fuel strike in Tahiti. Fortunately we had plenty and only needed a top up. However, the fuel we got from Galapagos needed a lot of filtering through a funnel and our water and sludge separator was working overtime at the other end. I added this filter in Croatia and it has been very useful in preventing our normal filters from clogging up. A few mediocre vegetables were added to our pantry and off we went overnight to Fatu Hiva.
Either the gearbox or our Gori folding prop needed some attention because we could not get it into forward gear. So looking a little undignified, we exited the harbour in reverse. It took a few goes but eventually we were able to go forwards. Yet another warranty claim to eat into my fun time. Tahiti is the nearest place to get it fixed along with all the other problems.
We needed to go slowly in order to arrive at Hanavave in the morning but with 20 knot winds it was hard taming Fandango down. Finally, with nothing more than a headsail furled to a third on a close reach, she still made nearly four knots in two to three metre seas.
Hanavave or the Bay of Virgins on Fatu Hiva was windy but spectacular to say the least. One of the most scenic anchorages I have ever visited. Only from a boat can you truly appreciate the beauty of such places. Here the 3D impact of the wrinkled hills overlooking us was very Tolkien. Like giant green dragons, their steeply ridged backs curled around the rivers to form lush jungle valleys filled with hibiscus, palms and other leafy delights.
The village had the usual ugly one and two storey concrete buildings and the locals drove new cars presumably subsidised by the French government. Instead of lofty hotels by the stony beach, there was a green field and some goal posts. Edo was soon checking out when was the next game.
Apart from small amounts of copra, they didn't seem to do much. It is hard to see how the coconut products you buy in the supermarket can come from these dirty fragments drying in the sun. The chooks roamed around eating them and returning it in liquid form. The flies left their maggots for the rats and birds.
Well, into explore mode we went. Towering volcanic rubble had crashed from time to time on to the road that lead us out of the village. Then steep walks, a waterfall and views from the dragons' backs. Breathtaking!
During the evening the locals practised for their festivals, timed to coincide with Bastille Day. The beginners were in one class outside and the others were in a building that amplified the big drums throughout the village. It looked as if everyone who could wiggle their hips was there and they certainly worked hard for more than ninety minutes.
Not long after we left Hanavave, we stopped and dinghied ashore to pick up some baguettes from the village where they were made for this small island. We were blessed with steady winds that make sailing so much more enjoyable than the gusty conditions that take a toll on sails. A few days later we arrived at the pass to enter the Makemo lagoon. The current here can reach nine knots so some care is needed to enter at the right time. This would not be a good place for forward gear to fail.
Pouheva had the usual mess with concrete dwellings, a church and at least one old abandoned stone building from another time. However, this was party time and in the evenings groups of dancers competed. This was no practice but the full Monty complete with chief and grass skirts. Even the womens' bras were covered with woven palm fronds. I note this because it is not that unusual to see a woman wearing a colossal bra like an outer garment. Apart from the crew off a couple of yachts, there were no tourists here. There was also no beer due, probably, to the same strike that was affecting everywhere.
Fandango took a trip along the inside of the lagoon to a picture postcard beach that was all ours. The sixteen nautical mile route was littered with small reefs and bommies (coral heads). The crew took it in turns to be hoisted half way up the mast to keep a look out.
We had a BBQ, flew a kite, walked and swam in the clear aquamarine water that changed shades as it got deeper. We played tennis and even raced hermit crabs that were everywhere, including your plate when you put it down. Fab was muttering that he wanted to build his dream beach hut here. Sad to think this will all be gone next century, along with thousands of other low lying islands.
The boat's beer supply was now dangerously low and so we headed back to the village to forage. I wished we could make beer like we made water. Thank goodness the crew didn't go a bundle for scotch. The prop was checked before heading off and was slow to engage but it did after a few goes. It worked fine again after going into neutral to get over lines laid for long distances at right angles to the shore. These were for farming the famous black pearls.
Still no repair of the town's wifi or supplies from Tahiti. However there was the World Cup Final on satellite TV and our hosts had a small cache of the amber fluid. Before the game we watched an almost total eclipse of the sun. The clouds did their best to hide the event but it could still be seen.
That afternoon we popped out on the slack tide and sailed off overnight to Fakarava, which has now become Fab's favourite swear word. We used radar to check the location of small atolls that kept you on your toes. It was a wet windy night and I had to put on my Santa suit (red coloured foul weather gear) to stand watch.
A big French flag was hoisted but Bastille Day turned out to be a non-event. We watched the school having a field day. The three legged race and tug-o-war were hotly contested.
This UNESCO atoll still burns plastic and other waste that wafts along the coast. Wifi was a joke here as well. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry and the shops, like everywhere in French Polynesia, open and close out of sync with each other, if they open at all.
We visited a pearl farm and the German owner was helpful and even supplied some beers whilst we fed the mosquitoes in the shade. Not many tourists here either.
It was time to go and with the headsail and reverse gear we made a clean exit. Two nights at sea and early the following morning we sighted Tahiti exactly where it should be. A huge cemetery made a good landmark on the green hills. We anchored in the lagoon off Marina Taina, a short distance from Papeete, where the busses run into town during the day but at night you have to get a rip-off taxi. The fares jump fifty percent, making them dearer than in Oz.
Along the waterfront, Papeete has some gardens and events into the early evening. But beware after the shops shutter-up around five or six. The area inland becomes the "dark" side of town. The occasional hooker, beggar or scary looking person permeate the shadows to be at your side. I wouldn't say you were in immediate danger but I wouldn't want to be here later into the night.
We met up with some friends from other boats and made more friends as the group grew in the evenings. Now in the marina waiting for our repaired gear box to be re-installed, amongst other things, we imbibed and made our own music. Fab on the Fandangophone (sax) Edo on Fandanguitar join others on guitar and drums to serenade the night ... until security turns up. Not a problem though and they left us alone on future nights.
Galapagos Islands to Hiva Oa, Marquesas
28 June 2010
Log reading 16,905 nautical miles
It took nineteen days and three hours to arrive late afternoon at the "port" of Atuona after a passage of 3,018 nautical miles (nearly 5,600 kilometres). Easier than the Atlantic, we had a few flattish spots but used the engine for propulsion only once for a few hours. At night we usually reduced sail to make sleeping more comfortable. As the winds went above fifteen knots, the two to three metre swell broke into waves. We had gusts of up to thirty knots but normally it was in the range of 12 to 19 knots mostly as a broad reach.
One noticeable feature was the cold humidity when we left to the warmer weather half way across. Sea temperature (according to the calibrated Raymarine instrument) was 23 degrees rising to 31 degrees when we got here. Mould was on many things and the fruit and veg department took casualties. Generally, fruit and veg have not been good since we left Europe. Exceptions included mangoes. "Yes, we have no bananas" has been heard a few times but they are either too green or ready to eat yesterday.
We didn't see much in the way of pelagics apart from a few dolphins. On the fishing front, we lost two lures and one complete line (75kg breaking strain!) and lure. In the end, we took two dorado and one tuna. All were eaten raw and were delicious. We thought the score was a bit low having purchased a quality Penn reel, which was mounted to the pushpit.
A few small sea birds were seen more than a thousand miles from land. One came in for a rest and the usual bodily functions before moving on.
The reacher (extra big, light weight rounded genoa) was up for over two weeks and although not torn, needs some work. Bamboozle (see earlier blog) worked well when required. Raymarine instruments let the side down yet again. The iCom HF receiver worked well and gave us brief world news everyday and of course World Cup scores. The sat phone allowed grib (weather) file and email access. Positions were reported daily to Mission Control (Heather) in Oz.
We saw only three small freighters during the whole trip and of course some rubbish on its way to a lovely beach.
The main thing was that we had enough olive oil, ground coffee, puree and fresh tomatoes for our Italian contingent. I think the colours of the Italian flag refer to the said oil and tomato.
Hiva Oa was expensive as were all the French colonies we have visited. Atuona is a village set into magnificent green hills. Only one restaurant and one bar. We watched Fab play sax with a local group and found a lovely pension (Chez Kayser) on the hill overlooking the anchorage that fed and watered us superbly.
We left Atuona to check out other anchorages. Now back again for the World Cup on the TV and then on our way to see the nearby islands before crossing over to the Tuamotu Archipelago and then to Papeete.
02 June 2010
Well hello there
The small lava stone town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz has some good and some cheap restaurants and we tried many of them. There was a no dinghy policy so everyone used water taxis which worked well. The place was easy going and everyone friendly and helpful.
Frigate birds, pelicans and sea lions were everywhere. The latter will get on your boat if they can, so we tied fenders to our transom. One was even on my bench at our waterside restaurant! It was genuinely wild with serious teeth but after seeing that I meant no harm, it settled back and closed its eyes. Rays of various types can be seen in the murky harbour water as well as reef sharks. On one occasion I saw five spotted rays swimming in a pack on the surface. They say tiger and hammerhead sharks come in at dusk to feed, so I cleaned the hull and prop one morning.
Down by the very small fish market, pelicans and the odd Booby compete for scraps. Odd they certainly are because some have red feet, some blue and others are hooded in white feathers. We had already met a red footed one who had a lift with us one night and covered part of the folded bimini (to see the stars at night) with poo, leaving stains.
The first trip was to the Darwin Research centre. The giant tortoises, which were kept for breeding, barely moved and were fed on a sort of hay. Each island's tortoise had different shaped shells. Mankind had nearly wiped them all out. Some iguanas also laid about in the lava stone corals. The nearby black lava stone beaches had many red crabs and black crabs.
The next day Fab and Shirley went off to Isla Isabela for three nights. Edo and I stayed to keep an eye on the anchor and to see something of the island. On a ranch, we came across giant tortoises that moved and looked at you as they fed on lush grasses. One was said to be about a hundred years young, about fifty in our years. We ate wild passion fruit and then moved on to some volcanic sink holes and a lava tube. Farm livestock seemed to be in good condition. Unfortunately that didn't always translate into good meat at the restaurants. Most of the time we ate local prawns or fish including some excellent sashimi and sushi.
Movement in the islands was very restricted and you needed a guide to go anywhere. Soon it was our turn for Isla Isabela and a bouncy, ninety minute ride on a stink boat got us there. The roads were compacted sand, the accommodation basic and the tap water brackish and seriously contaminated. Many people got Galapagos Gut, which for some included water-borne parasites. Just as well there was plenty of cold beer.
Some snorkelling revealed green spiked sea urchins that I had not seen before. Later, it was decided not to do the five hour volcano crater tour because, whilst sunny on the beach, it was raining up in the hills. Anyway I have seen enough volcanos, active and dormant, in my lifetime. I was after the wildlife.
More snorkelling at another spot with six metre visibility turned up reef sharks and biggish wrasse. Swimming close to the khaki coloured rocks, I was surprised when one rose up in front of me. It was a big turtle and we both took action to avoid a collision and circled each other. Walking around the shore line we saw dragons (marine iguanas) wherever there was a rock. Up to a metre and a half and completely harmless. We didn't know that when confronted by six spitting big ones on a narrow path. They spit out salt water ingested when eating algae from the rocks, so we were told.
Heaps of birds and sea lions totally unfazed by our presence. One sea lion got out of the water, came over to meet us and posed for pictures. It kept coming closer and I am sure it wanted a scratch but we were not allowed to touch. Nearby another seal played with a fish which I suspected was too big for it to swallow. It moved it around in a pool, first picking it up in its mouth then tapping it around with its flippers. Next a pelican stood like a statue with wings outstretched catching the sun.
We met some fun people staying in the village. In fact there were very few tourists, so we were soon on nodding or drinking terms with most of them and a few of the locals. Needless to say, Edo and I never managed to get up very early during our stay.
A rough ride back to Puerto Ayora, just in time to join Fab & Shirley for a couple of dives on Gordon Rocks on the east coast of Santa Cruz. This is supposed to be a "world famous" site for hammerheads. Yes, some were seen or thought to have been seen by some of the divers. However, a few days earlier someone we met on Isabela advised us that he saw many hammerheads but the water was freezing and only six metres visibility. Despite the divemaster promising twenty five degrees Celsius, I put on my six millimetre hooded suit with a three mil under vest. Of course it really was twenty five degrees and the viz fifteen to twenty metres. Perhaps the sharks leave when the water gets warmer. I was warm but this old suit a bit tight. The rubber seemed to have shrunk with age. Just as well that I have a newer, thinner suit with me.
We've been here eleven days. More chores, another R & R day and then provisioning before heading off to cross the puddle for Hiva Oa, perhaps twenty one days away. There will be some atolls to check out over another week or ten days after that and before arriving at Papeete.
Panama City to Galapagos Islands
26 May 2010
Log reading 14,420 nautical miles
From Isla de Coco, Costa Rica
We had a good sail to Las Perlas and anchored between Islas Chapera and Mogo Mogo. The former island I was told is used for the Survivor TV series. There was a police base here and a few stink boats enjoying a Sunday arvo. It was very enjoyable but there was a strong current running between the islands. Shirley swam to the beach, some way off and had trouble with the last five metres making it back to the boat. First one line and then another joined to it snaked astern. Edo jumped in to help and she was soon back on board. We all had a swim around the boat but agreed the current was exceptionally strong and nobody else ventured far. A sobering thought when parking between islands. We were also aware that the Pacific has significant tides unlike the Med and the Caribbean.
We motored and sailed past other islands in the group and decided to drop in on a small village on the shore of Ensenada Honda. We had only just set foot on the sandy but rubbish strewn beach when we were greeted by a couple of locals that offered us marijuana. The guide book did say that this island was noted for its herbs.
Everyone was very friendly. We bought some mangoes and bananas from someone who rushed off into the bush to get them. This open community sheltered from the heat in their basic concrete homes. The paint had faded and an ornate balustrade along the front overlooking the sea was from another era.
Outside one house they were filleting large iguanas and outside another a man was relieving himself. You couldn't miss the mangy dogs skulking around and feel sorry for the scrawny chooks tethered to concrete blocks outside every house. Cockfighting was the big game here and the village store had the trophies lined up on the top shelf. A few things were purchased from this fascinating store (a bit like the old Aussie outback tin shed stores before the bitumen went through) including some very cold beers at USD 0.75.
When we got back to Fandango, perhaps because this was Honda Bay, Edo suddenly decided that our Honda dinghy needed a good scrub and now she was looking much more salubrious.
Our final stop in Las Perlas was Ensenada Playa Grande on a private island. What a magnificent spot. The pilot guide told us that the small building perched on a cliff was for the owner to drop a line down to a cave below for a bit of fishing. We saw the house from the water. Edo and I swam to the beach. No current here. Quite a bit of flotsam and jetsam on the beach.
On the maintenance front, the autopilot needed a loose bolt fixing and the engine tacho and hour meter no longer work. Good timing Murphy, right when fuel management is crucial in this huge area with fluky winds.
After a quiet morning we set sail for the Galapagos Islands via Isla de Coco. This was a last minute change based to some extent on the weather and to some extent on information archived on Fab's computer. We had a good sail the first day but then, as expected, it was mostly motoring during the day and a slow sail at night. At least sleeping was very comfortable. At times the current was faster than our speed through the water!
The cloud formations in this part of the world are staggering. Towering cumulonimbus with sunset colours splashed all about. Plenty of sheet lightening too along the horizon all around us. The VHF antenna was unplugged and various things turned off. Probably wouldn't make much difference if we were hit but at least we thought about it.
During the day there were dolphins and manta rays leaping out of the water. A sailfish was sighted. Also in the water was a huge tree and lots of plastic and other rubbish. We reduced speed at night in case we hit something.
The fishing line has been in and one lure lost. A shark fin was seen. Fish were also spotted feeding off the floating wood. However no sashimi for us.
We didn't have a Costa Rican courtesy flag but the "C" flag is exactly the same. The head ranger was impressed that we had the correct flag and not the US one and even asked where we got it. A chandlery of course! For our following stop in the Galapagos Islands, the Ecuadorian courtesy flag would be the same as that for Colombia. At five to 10 USD each, I now have enough courtesy flags to make a bed cover.
Isla de Coco loomed up early in the morning and several fishing boats passed us heading out of range of the park authorities. Their holds full of tuna no doubt and the rangers powerless, unless they actually catch them hauling in a fish from this UNESCO world heritage site.
The plotters (the boat's and two on computers) were out of alignment by about two hundred metres (C Map had much more detail than Navionics) so we tippee-toed very carefully using the depth sounder and mark 1 eyeball to get through the coral.
There were only three anchorages and we tried them all. The place was stunning. Dense lush vegetation sliding down steep slopes to the sea, fed by rain most days but sun was our reward for the effort to get here. Frigate birds, pelicans and all the usual suspects. Even a sea eagle wave hopping with a large leaf in its mouth, very odd.
By one bay, a small ranger's hut and by the other a park "office" with facilities and a volunteer ranger's compound. There was a rainforest walk to a spectacular waterfall and a good swim. A suspension bridge had been artistically created out of confiscated fishing lines and floats. On the next day a walk to a hill top gave a magnificent view. No snakes to bite us and no stinging nettles or vines.
Everyone was very friendly but the two dive boats that had come from the mainland hundreds of miles away were unable to take casual bookings. Thirty metres of visibility, fish everywhere and we are the only yacht. The snorkelling was very good but there were currents about so I decided not to solo dive to see the hammerheads I was promised at 30 metres. I snorkelled over to where I might just be able to see the sharks if they were there but they were not at home. However, no sooner aboard than heaps of commotion not far away. Fish were being rounded up by predators and the water boiled.
On our second night we dinghied to the lonely ranger's hut and cooked them some pasta to go with a couple of our bottles of wine. Idyllic. A bush hut by the waters edge and candles that flickered shadows on the vegetation draped about the place. I should also say that they had satellite TV, a hissing VHF scanning the airwaves and a blind cat that was at odds with park policy.
The island was used by pirates to hide their treasure. The government even mounted a special expedition to check for themselves. Manuel and Walter gave us heaps of information and earlier in the day had showed us big river rocks inscribed with boats names going back to 1842, probably earlier where legibility made it hard to read. All except me spoke fluent Spanish and translated, so it was an excellent evening.
Being so taken by this magic spot we circumnavigated the small island and gasped at the beauty of the many waterfalls, one we thought a hundred metres, that cascaded over ledges and splashed into the sea. Please don't tell anyone else about this special place.
On our way again, it was a bit of a slog over the next five days with two to three metre seas and a 15 to 18 knot wind on the nose. Both side cabin port holes leaked a little so it will be yet another bit of paperwork to Jeanneau for me to do when we get in. We Fandangoed our way south and then needed Matilda for the last day to make sure we arrived in daylight.
On the morning of May 22nd, we crossed the equator and did the Neptune thing to Edo and Shirley. Soon the first island appeared. A small whale and a shipwreck greeted us as we rounded into Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz.
Off to dinner in the small town and a good sleep to follow.
The Panama Canal
08 May 2010
Our agent Enrique Plummer failed to show up at the marina and so I decided to do all the paperwork myself. It turned out to be very easy and I was surprised the agent myth had survived so long.
Colon/Christobal was a hole and a USD60 return trip from Shelter Bay Marina by taxi. Fortunately the marina provided a free bus service twice a day if you got your name down quickly enough. The marina was not too bad but the only restaurant was a chips and burger type with bad acoustics. The marina was in a national park with howler monkeys and other animals.
Finally the faulty alternator/regulator was replaced and other repairs and maintenance done. We provisioned and waited.
It is recommended that you send at least one of your crew members ahead on another boat to see what happens and to get experience as a line handler. It turned out that this was a waste of time and you don't need to do it. Ted volunteered to do the line work on a boat leaving before us but the boat was delayed. He had made four changes to his itinerary in the seven weeks he was on board, which kept me busy. Eduard, who did the Atlantic crossing in 2009 but not with the ARC, joined Fandango for the Pacific.
Our departure was confirmed for 1400 hours and we felt relieved that it was not the 1730 hours allocated to our neighbours Jim and Heather on a J42. At 1400 hours out on "The Flats" Fandango was called by "The Tower" and told to wait until 1800 hours. The storm clouds dumped on us but cleared in time for the off. Our neighbour turned up and we were going together with a big cat and another boat. We were to be rafted with the cat.
It was very exciting, easy and the "adviser" or trainee pilot was a good guide. Into the first of the three up locks. Lines were thrown down from the top of the lock and our long hired lines were attached with a turn round a cleat and on to a winch. Forward lines do not have the benefit of a winch. The big metal gates slowly and silently closed us in behind a ship that took up the rest of the lock. The water swirled and surged, the lines were held taught and up we go the seven or eight metres at the rate of nearly a meter a minute. The gates in front opened and we motored into the next lock, a bit like a three legged race contestant moving up to the start.
We were soon on the Gatun Lakes and motored over to the huge mooring buoys that would be home for the night. They say be ready the next day at 0600 hours but most reports indicated it could be more likely 0800 before the second adviser turns up. This morning he was on at 0555! No time for a swim in the fresh water. They say the crocs here are harmless or was it that we would be armless?
The sun was up and off we went on a very enjoyable scenic tour of the lakes, fringed by a beautiful restricted jungle home to many creatures and scientists from the Smithsonian Institute. Breakfast and elevenses were prepared for all six of us, Eduard, Adrian, Chris, John, myself and the adviser. He was cheerful and easy to please. Another myth exploded. About five hours later we approached the first of the down locks. Again we rafted to the cat and our marina neighbour went the other side. The other boat hadn't made it but we were not sure why. This time the water was more placid as it was drained out rather than pumped in.
Our raft's combined line handler force did an excellent job and we were soon popped out the other end to be viewed by crowds of tourists on two observation decks. We looked for the cameras and waved. A short burst of speed and the adviser left further down the river, allowing us to dump our lines at Balboa and head round to our anchorage at Las Brisas de Amador.
Here, Fabrizio and Shirley joined us for the Pacific. We will be eating well.
The water here was disgusting, as in many anchorages near big cities. Our water filters soon turned dark, again. On shore we looked around the old town. Similar in some ways to Cartagena but needing a lot of repair. We visited the famous Havana Club but it was too early for any action. We had many runs into the city to do our washing, get petrol for the outboard, provisioning and to refill our gas bottles. The later took three days and they returned the bottles empty saying they were faulty. I tested them and they were fine. We had enough gas to reach the Galapagos where we were informed that gas was available. Otherwise I would have to buy a charcoal BBQ.
Taxis were fairly cheap, once you know the ropes, and one chatty driver informed me that whilst walking around most of the city was safe, even at night, taxis were dangerous. If there was another passenger, he could be waiting to slit your throat. There was no ID for drivers and taxis were used for assasinations, kidnappings and robbing tourists. Oh really I said, making sure my hand was ready on the door handle.
Panama City was awash with stalled building projects. It's not a bad place if you like a bit of the big smoke once in a while but we have had enough, so Las Perlas here we come.
Grenada to Shelter Bay, Panama.
05 May 2010
Log reading 13,302 nautical miles
Was this the Pacific already?
We said goodbye to Trevor at de Big Fish. He's off for a holiday on neighbouring islands. You have to be careful where you sit in this restaurant, certainly not under the sign that says "Reserved for eating customers"!
The chart plotter was replaced thanks to Paul Lawson, Raymarine UK, who overcame the bureaucratic impasse in the US. Shame we had to wait for over a week to get it cleared by customs but at least we were free again. The joy of being out at sea again was wonderful.
The overnight sail to La Blanquilla north of Venezuela was excellent. This was a sandy island with a small fishing camp a mile from our anchorage. The water was blue and a clump of palms on the beach made it a bit Robinson Crusoe. We were the only boat and on our guard for pirates. Our large calibre cockpit-mounted machine gun gave us some comfort - no only kidding. However, a boat roared over towards us from the camp. Three guys shouted out in Spanish if we had "something spicy". Was this a ploy? Checking us out? This is how it can start. After they left we went to "orange alert" and closed up the boat for the night. The movement sensor went off once but no sign of intruders. Perhaps a pelican.
Dolphins were now a common sight both in the day and at night. Los Roques was worth the stop. Beautiful beaches and coral everywhere. All sorts of birds nest on these islands and others on our route. Their dive bombing antics were always fun to watch. The pelicans don't mind you swimming up close nor do a few tourists that come here to relax on the beach that we chose.
Bliss you might say but not for long. During just a few days the primary bilge pump and shower pump went on the blink. The Raymarine MOB buttons played up. Vion's idea of a barometer gave up the ghost. The bimini and dodger clips seize up. The drain on the fuel separator blocked up. The head holding tank needed a broom handle to free it up. Some diesel fuel seeped onto my bunk from a faulty plastic jerry can in the cockpit locker above. An oar disintegrated and required riveting (only just out of warranty as usual). The engine alternator regulator that was checked out was still faulty and prevented us running the engine for too long or it would cook the one engine and three newish AGM house batteries. The tachometer and engine hour counter malfunction. The steering makes even louder noises than usual.
Back to bliss as we bamboozled (see earlier blog) our way west. This bamboo pole worked extremely well either goose-winged or poled to leeward. On a run, we sheet the genoa outside as for a spinnaker, including tweakers, to give greater control over the leach and steady the sail in rolls and gusts.
Isla Sur on the group Islas de Aves was ours except for a catamaran and later a fishing boat. This is a bird roosting site with all the usual suspects. Thank goodness none of their wee messages hit the boat.
Civilisation loomed up in the form of Bonaire, the first of three Dutch islands. Kralendijk's traditional Dutch architecture was painted with heaps of colour including egg yolk. We went diving. The sky was overcast but it was still very enjoyable.
The second island was Curacao, where we went inland from Pt Santa Barbara to anchor in a sheltered area. From here we bussed to Willemstad and were reasonably impressed with the "old" quarter and riverside.
Lastly Aruba which is close to Venezuela. We were boarded by the coast guard and directed to a check in dock. The boat was searched. They were very friendly and polite but it prevented us from reaching our intended anchorage in day light. Customs were happy to check Fandango in and out but immigration required me to come back the day after. The taxi cost USD40 for the 20 minute round trip and I checked it to the scheduled fare. Taxis everywhere in the Caribbean are expensive.
What has Aruba got? The top end of the island is duty free for the cruise ships and hotels. The bottom end is for the hookers working out of bars similar to Thailand's "Soi Cowboy". We didn't visit, although it would have been fun to look around and see famous Charlie's bar. Ted felt more in control of his lower region by parking it in front of the Golf Masters final on TV and pouring down Basali beer. I worked the computer from the same very nice bistro. The island was on the way for us but no wonder few yachties bother with Aruba.
A three day two night sail took us to Cartagena. On the way the water turned a murky green. Pirates and offshore drug transfers are reported hereabouts. I decided to keep roughly in the coastal shipping lanes where we could get help if needed. We saw quite a few commercial ships but no nasties.
Regular lightning lit up the clouds over Colombia as Fandango moved along the coast. This may have come from the Lake Maracaibo area and known as Catatumbo lightening.
We were doing well but late afternoon the wind dropped and we started motoring. The faulty alternator regulator mentioned earlier started to overcharge the batteries. We turned on everything electrical in order to slow the rising voltage, as well as motoring just above idle speed.
I had decided not to go through the very narrow small boats entry in the seawall to the upper part of the harbour because of the armed pirate attack that occurred here last December, at the same time as we would have been approaching. This meant a longer hike through the main entrance channel. The marina had been reported as defunct, yet two showed on the chart plotter, one was nearby and we only wanted to anchor. The batteries were cooking as we crept along, so at 2200 hrs the pick was dropped in the first designated anchorage. On shore was a stinking oil terminal but daylight next morning would help us find the other spot. However, at 0100 hrs the coast guard woke us up and recommended we move because gangs were known to attack boats - even here! The batteries had cooled a little during our stop but the alarms were going for the last half hour as we followed the CG up to the second marked "marina" and a suitable anchorage. Dead batteries and fire were possibilities so we worked the windlass to help the engine battery.
After an enjoyable walk around the old town we relaxed and people watched from a few spots where a cold beer and shaded seat were available. Old Cartagena was well worth a visit. There seemed to be little damage to the old colourful Spanish buildings.
My whiskers were starting to frighten the horses pulling tourists about, so I decided to get shorn at a unisex salon. It was the worst haircut in my life, by a woman who would have been better suited to an outback sheep station. In the end I told her to stop, took some scissors and tidied the job up myself.
We dined in the old town and walked back to the dingy which was chained to a guarded pontoon. Everyone was friendly and no badies in sight. At night, the towering new city on the other side of our anchorage looked surreal in the shimmering glow of millions of energy guzzling lights. It couldn't be captured on camera but I won't forget it.
We left early the next morning for the overnight trip to the eastern end of the San Blas Islands. The approaching islands looked like floating haystacks and we anchored in the appropriately named Snug Harbour. The next morning, a Kuna man in a dugout canoe offered us undersized crays for fifty cents US each, as well as mangoes and avocadoes.
The next few days would seem like we were already in the Pacific. Golden sandy beaches with driftwood sculptures, overhung with jostling coconut palms that seemed to gaze down at the aquamarine water lapping beneath. Perhaps they stared in fear, waiting to join others already submerged by rising sea levels.
On the islands, small hermit crabs scurried about like football teams in matching shells. A group of green, then beige, then red but I could never find the game. The snorkelling was good, especially around a wrecked freighter. We looked over some thatched huts. Classic views and sunsets.
Checking into Porvenir Island for customs and immigration at the western end of the group was interesting. The island is a small runway. Torn boxes lay about one of the dilapidated offices spilling out years of paperwork. The immigration officer was lying on a bed watching TV. The nearby Kuna decorated restaurant served the smallest of fried fish, full of bones. A DVD fed screen broke the spell when the waitress thought it would be appropriate for our enjoyment.
Back on Fandango anchored nearby was a dugout displaying Kuna patchwork and paddled by two elderly women. Too expensive for their patient brown eyes to sell, we bid them and their gentle world goodbye.
Timing was perfect and dawn the next day saw us creeping through the big ships, waiting their turn outside Shelter Bay to transit the canal. Some were resting after a long voyage and some were also creeping about. An exciting watch for me. By 0800 Fandango was tied up in the nearby marina.
Grounded on Grenada
24 March 2010
Log reading 12,073 nautical miles
Whilst waiting for repairs to be completed, we took an organised trip around Grenada. Shame you might say but this was very good value and once in a while it's good to let someone else put it together. We stopped frequently, meeting locals and getting a good understanding of their agriculture, herbs and spices.
Grenada is a big producer of cocoa beans, although today they only ferment and dry them before they go to Amsterdam. Next door to the factory lived the retired Caribbean diplomat Denis Neil OBE, whose family once owned it. He happened to be outside and invited us in. A charming man who knew a bit about Australia. His Edwardian house was falling apart but full of memorabilia such as photos with world famous leaders and the Queen.
I wondered about the 1983 execution of the government by nationalists but I didn't have the time to get involved. I had noted five women included in the memorial list at the fort seen a few days earlier in St Georges. I don't wish to make light of the tragedy but there are times when you think some politicians deserve it.
Rivers rum distillery started in 1785 and was still crushing cane today, a handful at a time, with a water driven wheel. This was not just for the tourists, it was all they had! The 75% proof sample certainly cleared the sinuses.
A nutmeg and mace factory was interesting. Production had dropped to 10% after the hurricane in 2002. Other stops included monkeys, a volcanic lake, lovely bays and a waterfall where the local lads touted for money before leaping fifteen meters into the pool below.
A trip to Hog Island for a relaxing Sunday and local style BBQ revealed that our Raymarine plotter is still malfunctioning. So Fandango is grounded until they have another go at it. The regulator, batteries and isolator have been tested and found to be OK, so the high voltage alarms are also still a problem.
Another week of waiting and continued concern about faulty equipment affected morale. After four months on Fandango, Trevor decided that he didn't mind if he never set foot on a boat again. He left for an apartment ashore. Heather 2, who had been on for two months had a schedule. After a few days, she decided to fly ahead to join another boat that was previously parked near to us in Prickly Bay for a while.
Ted is fresh and keen and we are in exercise mode. Yes, in between bowls of French fries and buckets of beer he is able to do an impressive work out. My efforts are more modest. However, we need to look good for Sunday visits to the BBQ and jump up on Hog Island. Ted has already had success in that department.
We have met many interesting sailors here at Roger's. The beach bar is a shack on sandy Hog Island and locals chill out here, as they cook on open fires food that we haven't seen in the restaurants. Shame that it will all be bulldozed for a resort in a year or two. The bridge has gone in and the trucks will follow.
St Lucia to Grenada
09 March 2010
Log reading 12,058 nautical miles
Yes, it's a turtle!
Marinas have effluent discharged from boats staying more than a few days, especially when shore toilets are dysfunctional. Growth on the hull is accelerated by this "food" and the fact that ablative antifouling needs hull movement through the water to work.
Glad to be away from marinas, Fandango moved down to Harmony Beach at Soufriere with a good view of the famous Pitons. In the clear water of this bay, the barnacles can be seen all over the prop and drive shaft, which cannot be treated, as well as the rudder and some parts of the keel. The last antifoul was applied less than five months ago using International's new top of the line Micron 77. So much for that!
Equipment malfunction occurs on a regular basis because manufacturers design things for the summer weekend sailor. We bought four Hella (supposedly a good German brand) expensive cabin fans in St Lucia but two were faulty and had to be returned while we were there. One of Raymarine's replacement parts fitted in St Lucia was discovered to be faulty and the plotter is on the blink yet again. Either Sterling's fast battery charger, fitted last October, was on the blink or the engine's regulator had failed. Care was needed not to cook the batteries. Oh, and the sixth tin opener died on a can of olives.
However, back to paradise. A speed boat arrived to collect us for dinner at the only restaurant. They even have wifi. Joseph has big plans to expand.
St Vincent had been portrayed as the Badlands. Avoiding trouble spots, we thoroughly enjoyed the next stage that would take us from the main island and down through the Grenadines.
Cumberland Bay was delightful. The locals, sick of theft and violence by outsiders now kept an eye on this haven. A few colourful shacks and some new buildings amongst the palm trees make this look more like what you would expect on a Caribbean sailing trip.
A man sat on the beach at sun up, chanting and talking to his god. We bought fish caught a few hours earlier and miniature mangoes. A young boy guided us up to his village inland from the bay. We walked through streams. People smiled and say hello. Live stock grazed by the roads and on derelict allotments. Things were slow and we stopped to examine a tamarind tree. We chatted to a farmer tending a bull. Suddenly a hoon sped by in a car with little room to spare on the narrow road. The boy told us that this was normal and stuck with us until we got back to the bay. Not wanting to reward him with money, apples were offered from a backpack and gratefully received. They are a delicacy here and the following morning found him perched on our stern line asking for some more!
Sailing past Wallilabou, the binos were used to scan the small harbour for leftovers from the filmset of the first Pirates movie. It wasn't worth stopping. What a wasted tourist opportunity.
On to Bequia. No rainforest here because the island and those that follow lack the peaks that attract rain. Port Elizabeth on Admiralty Bay has a nice feel and but I noticed two beachfront resorts that had been left to the elements.
Sailing around to the south of the island we stopped at Friendship Bay. Not a lot here to explore, a bit rolly at anchor but pretty and restful.
Next stop was a bit posh. Britannia Bay on Mustique was the only place you could anchor or moor. The island is owned by a development company that has a maximum of 140 allotments. One was a present to Princess Margaret in the sixties and then the other high profilers followed. No rubbish, manicured and very private. Us mortals can hire a buggy and drive around but almost every laneway had a "Private Property" sign.
We could visit Basils, an over-rated restaurant bar where we could mingle with the rich and famous. The rich and famous must have had better things to do when we were there but we enjoyed a "jump up" dinner and sat next to the restaurant boss' table. He and his fellow dinners, four men and one woman who left as soon as she had finished eating, were served first, drank wine form decanters and smoked big cigars. They looked like mafia and a few people came over to pay their respects in the usual mafia way.
There were some breathtaking beaches with spotless carparks and picknick tables. Firefly was a place to eat at or for a pampered stay, if you could afford it. Perched on the side of a hill, it was very cute indeed.
To protect the boat from the big mooring buoys, we had tied four fenders around ours. When we got back to the boat they were missing. The jerking motion of the buoy was believed to have loosened one of the many knots. A reward to a local fisherman secured their release.
A short sail to Charlestown Bay on Canouan. A lovely big anchorage area with a sandy bottom that provided the turquoise sea that was becoming more commonplace. Not much ashore but we bought a live lobster that was cooked for us by the fisherman.
A fully kitted out (wetsuit, speargun, net, fins etc) spearfisherman swam to the back of the boat from shore, with his dog! He showed us his problem and asked for money to get a new spear gun part in exchange for fish. We doubted if we would get any fish but asked about snorkelling sites. I don't normally give to beggars but this guy had a brilliant act and an amazing amphibious dog. It has been suggested in yachting articles that those boats that buy from or give to locals avoid getting a visit from "tieves".
And now for a star attraction - Tobago Cays. Being in serious coral country, the MK1 Eyeball must be engaged at all times. At least this bit of equipment wasn't installed by Jeanneau. The water colours were stunning although visibility was impaired a little by stirred up sand. We moored near Turtle Island. Turtles were everywhere and tolerated snorkellers hovering above them as they grazed on the seagrass. On the island were iguanas that also seemed little concerned by your presence. Elsewhere there were good fish numbers and variety. The coral reefs were a mess, having been destroyed by a hurricane. I also suspected that the high water temperature may also be hampering recovery.
Stopping for lunch at Palm Island, formerly Prune Island, an expedition ashore took us around an upmarket resort set on dazzling sand fringed with the brightest turquoise water you can imagine. I am sure a few brochure shots came form here.
A short hop away was the last of the Grenadines, Union Island. We needed to clear customs etc here on Monday and a couple of nights anchored by this quaint village were very enjoyable. We had been warned that boatmen would try to rent moorings that were unsafe or commercial and from which we would be thrown off when the usual occupant came back.
Janti's Happy Island, about thirty meters across and built from conch shells left by the fisherman, sat on a coral reef in the harbour. It is a mandatory drink stop for yachties using a tender. I wondered how it would go in the Whitsundays back in Oz but the Bureaucracy and the crazy Health and Safety Gestapo would prevent it.
Exploring around some ugly buildings near the wharf, I came across a small derelict wall with a 1994 plaque from the Japanese Government. It commemorated the support given to them by the fishermen of Union Island. This referred to the international votes bought by the Japs to secure their right to kill whales.
Next was Mopion near Petit St Vincent. You may not find this island on Google as it measures not much more than 30 metres across. Golden sand surrounded by reef and, offset to one side, a sturdy palm thatched wooden umbrella for about six people. This also must have featured on many brochures and was erected by a yachtie in 2002. Fortunately we got there first and had lunch just as others were arriving.
The late afternoon was spent at anchor on Petite Martinique, which is part of Grenada. Anchoring here was a bit of a problem. We caught first an old tyre and then some fishing net. Crew on a nearby fishing boat laughed at our misfortune and said we could use any of the moorings. It was very windy and the thick warp gave us some assurance. We soon had some fresh tuna from other fishermen and ate on board that night.
The following day we motored over to Hillsborough on Carriacou. Whilst spending an hour doing customs and immigration, I noticed a policeman's flat hat on a shelf with an EIIR badge. They must be hard up to keep the old hats after independence in 1974.
In the village, the usual inspired names and messages appear on boats and cars. A feature common with other islands, the words often have religious beliefs and ideals. "God is Love" looked OK however "Come see the Lord" on one boat would seem a little disconcerting for passengers.
Stopping to snorkel around Sandy Island, we saw pelicans dive for fish. Round the headland was Tyrrell Bay where we anchored. The village was a pleasant place in a colourful rundown quaint rubbish strewn sort of way, as is normal. Tracy, the barmaid at the Carriacou Yacht Club had a severe stutter but the pace was so slow that it didn't matter at all. We chatted and her smile was warmer than the sun outside. The beers were very cold and tomorrow's lunch was pecking around in the sandy stubble below the balcony. It was delightful but somehow, I didn't think there would be a long wait for membership at this club.
It was a gusty trip down to St George's Bay on Grenada where we anchored. On the way we passed close to "Kick em Jenny" an active underwater volcano. Whitecaps would have made the bubbles hard to see.
We checked out the fort, museum, market and back streets. Later, a bus took us to the Friday Fish Feast at Gouyave. Two streets joined at right angles are closed to traffic so that the stallholders can cook and serve everything from lobster to fishcakes. Some drummers added to the atmosphere and we had a good time eating, people watching and toe-tapping.
We moved around to the bottom of the island and examined the pretty bays. Now it was maintenance time at anchor in Prickly Bay, with so many things that needed fixing. Raymarine, Selden, Yanmar and Lewmar were among the usual suspects.
Ted Joins Trevor, Heather 2 and me later this week and the following week we start our westerly trek to Panama via several islands.
Antigua to St Lucia via points north
24 February 2010
Log reading 11,876 nautical miles
Lime kiln for building Brimstone Hill Fort
We left Antigua and overnighted at Pinney's Beach on Nevis. It didn't look very inviting so we set off for St Kitts and sheltered from the strong winds in Port Zante's marina at Basseterre. We learned on the radio that a big cruise ship had been damaged at its mooring.
Bussing around the island, we took time to see Fort George and the Brimstone Hill Fortress. When I asked about this from the tourist office they tried to dissuade me from taking the local bus "which was for locals". The local busses are a great way to mingle and we recommend them, even though there is no leg room.
We walked up to the fort and on the walk down saw green vevert monkeys. There was a big limestone kiln hidden in the rain forest and was in good shape after two hundred years of neglect. Nearby were unusual trees, some with very sharp spikes on their trunks. These things the cruise tourist misses. Many towns welcome the big influx of tourists and if you are white they assume you are off a cruise ship. I was even asked by a police officer if I was lost because he knew the ship was leaving soon.
Travelling back by bus, we passed a big medical school and chatted to a student from the US who explained that students came from around the world to save on fees.
The town has some interesting historic buildings and that night we saw a Caribbean street party. A good band and some rollerblade performers hanging off the back of passing cars added to the entertainment.
Oranjestad on Statia was our next stop. Not a lot here so the next day saw us at Ladder Bay on Saba. A dingy is required to enter the small harbour in the south. Alternatively there are the old stone steps (the ladder) and a very steep road further along but strong winds prevented us from going ashore. We did manage to do some snorkelling the following morning.
A small part of the bow of the boat had its gelcoat rubbed off by the big lines on the large mooring buoys. When the wind stops the boat is likely to drift over the lines and the buoy taps against the hull, keeping crew awake. These are not pick up buoys and are too big to get on deck. These buoys slide down the heavy warp but elsewhere many have big shackles to damage the boat if you try to string them up under the anchor and take the load.
From this wild island it was on to the bright lights and duty free island of St Martin with its French and Dutch halves. Having been told that this would be good fun, we were disappointed. There was a good local restaurant on the French side. By local I mean forget the menu, you get what they have and can wait two hours before it arrives. At around 10.30pm they start pulling down shutters, oh it's OK for you to stay a while in the bar but be gone by around 11.00pm. After this time motor bike gangs sometimes roar through the streets with guns and knives. We heard the bikes late at night from the boat but never saw them. There are some things you don't hang around to check out.
Piracy and murder sound fun in a movie but here it's for real. Not long before we arrived in Marigot Bay, St Martin, a nearby boat was boarded by armed "tiefs". Even back in Antigua we learned that a woman had been shot dead on the beach the day before. Local radio nets have a section for reporting robberies. The official advice "do not resist and let them take whatever they want" gives them the expectation that it's OK. The authorities seem powerless to do anything. Many yachties don't report it because of the futility of all that paperwork. Get a gun you might think but it's a major hassle with customs (if you declare it, you may not get it back) and revealing it to uninvited boats could cost you your life. How about a popup remote controlled heat-seeking rocket launcher, now that would be nice.
Bussing over to the Dutch side (Sint Maarten) confirmed that this island, with its lagoon, is a yacht haven and with it the usual eateries and tourist shops.
A trivia spot if I may. Many islands in the Caribbean and the Med have their own unique flag. Every island in the Caribbean Dutch Antilles has its own flag and there is also the Dutch Antilles flag itself. What courtesy flag do you fly? Answer: the Netherlands (European) flag but chandleries will try to hoodwink you into buying the others. Anyway, the authorities probably don't care if you fly the wrong one.
A stiff sail over to Port Gustavia on St Barts. Very quaint and popular with the big spenders. We anchored outside in the swell and still had to pay harbour dues. The French islands use a computer clearing system. You type in what you like, they don't check it. However it becomes a bit tedious having to re-enter everything, every time and the Caribbean islands can't agree on a simple common registration process.
We had seen many turtles but now we saw dolphins around the boat and humpback whales not too far away.
From there we sailed to Deep Bay on Antiqua and anchored at night. Only one other boat which quickly put on its anchor light as we approached. A very pretty bay greeted us in the morning. Heather 2 swam over to the wreck close to us and was concerned about the enormous fish swimming beneath her.
Another long trip and a night approach to our anchor spot at Deshaies on Guadeloupe. Having been here before makes a big difference but, for the last fortnight, we had been sailing with our backup computer chart plotter which is down in the cabin. The Raymarine parts awaited us in St Lucia. No rude Frenchmen this time but we exchanged notes with a friend on another boat that we knew from Las Palmas. We have seen so many boats repeatedly on our route but that's hardly surprising. It's good fun looking around when you arrive or see others coming into an anchorage.
Much nicer is Bourg de Saintes on an island below Guadeloupe. The French know how to create a little bit of Europe with a Caribbean flavour. After the longer than expected motoring on an earlier stretch I decided to get a 20 litre plastic jerry can filled. Now I often make jokes about the French being a little illogical and here's an example. Where is the fuel? After asking several people, I managed to find a very helpful man who offered to walk me all the way there. Off we went down the road, which became a walking track eventually leading to a goat track, with real goats on it. Finally the fuel depot. There was no way anyone could lug a 20 litre jerry can back up that track and over the hill. The fuel station was served only from the water. If you wanted petrol or diesel you had to get in your small boat and motor around the headland to this isolated spot. When they saw "Fandango Australia" on the jerry can, I soon had a small group around me asking about the trip. Everyone was so helpful and a lift back in one of the boats was easily arranged. On my return, I offered some money for the driver to buy a few beers but he refused and insisted that it was his pleasure. Merci beaucoup became a genuine response to these lovely smiling people.
Back to the Caribbean proper and a mooring on the steep-to area at Roseau on Dominica. There is more sulphur in the air from the restless vents than before. Will we get dumped on again like Montserrat? It's too deep or there's no room. Giving up, we wave to the boat boy who is watching and waiting patiently. His and another's long high-powered wooden boat surge into action and are soon beside us. "Hello, we come back again to your lovely island, do we get a discount?" "Oh yes my friend, I give you a discount on the tip". We laugh and I ask the boat boy about his boss' injured leg, which I was shown on the last visit. It was the last mooring available and we were close to a cruise ship. We watched it go and another come.
St Pierre was also worth a return visit and was conveniently placed en route. Have a drink and clear in and out at the same time. Very civilised. Nothing is checked and a rubber stamp makes our customs and immigration complete by the hand of the lass behind the bar.
Back to bureaucracy at Rodney Bay marina on St Lucia. On the never ending repair front, I have to remove the Raymarine chart plotter and take it round to the workshop because they are too busy. The repaired satellite phone is delivered as I am checking into the marina. Just as well because the new sat phone seems to have a faulty on/off button. Trevor is back from the UK with some bits for Fandango. A shade awning is made to help the Brits cope with the sun. Still much to do including washing the boat when we find out that there is no water available on the pontoons. The drought is normal but more severe this year we are told. The toilets and showers close, time to go down the coast and head south.
St Lucia to Antigua
17 February 2010
Log reading 11,381 nautical miles
On the way to the witchdoctor
Reggae music is everywhere in St Lucia, especially in the expensive taxis and inexpensive minibuses, where the loud beat reverberates throughout. Caribbeans seem to thrive on this and tap and move to its rhythm. Their woven hairstyles are fascinating with both sexes taking great trouble in their creation. Rastas usually have so much hair that they wear a colourful bonnet to hold most of it in, with knitted tails hanging down their necks.
The buses have such little leg room, yet the long-legged locals manage to pack themselves in. Good morning or afternoon they say as they get in and "bas stap driver" when they want to get off. Their warm smiles make you feel very welcome. Customs and immigration procedures are tedious but even the officials are usually friendly and easy going.
A walk round nearby Gros Islet village was fascinating but not recommended at night. Security is tight around tourists. Nearby Castries with its local market was flooded with cruise ship patrons of various sizes who seemed to be interested only in the duty free shopping.
A gondola tour through the rainforest canopy was good fun and informative. They even had a steel band here where we boarded, providing the essential Caribbean rythym.
In the balmy evenings the bell frogs sing and it is easy to relax and enjoy yourself. The beer is cold and the food mildly spicy. The crew think of freezing, snow-bound Britain waiting for them.
A fruit and veg vendor motors between the boats with many flags flying above a makeshift palm bimini. Water taxis with reggae music pounding out, create wash that rocks Fandango.
Having fixed another of Jeanneau's installation problems, we sailed down to Soufriere and saw the famous Pitons from the best position before returning to Rodney Bay marina.
Heather and I took a taxi tour to look at the beautiful botanic gardens, the not so beautiful malodourous sulphur springs and a spectaucular view of the Pitons from an upmarket resort. Despite having done this run for twenty years, our taxi driver forgot that the chocolate factory would be closed early on Fridays and this was a big disappointment. Journeying through shanty villages, our last night together before Heather took an early morning flight back to Oz was in dreary Vieux Fort.
Fandango's last night in St Lucia was spent anchored in Rodney Bay, off the delightfully "Robinson Crusoe" style Jambe de Bois restaurant. A climb from there to the ruins of the old fort on Pigeon Island was rewarded with spectacular views.
St Pierre on Martinique was interesting. It would have been wonderful to have seen it before Mt Pelee erupted in 1902. We took a long walk through the village outskirts to get to the rum factory with its chateau and big fig tree, refuelling on the free samples of the various brews. The following morning at 0500 we were jarred awake by the rapid ringing for some minutes of the nearby church bells. Sacre bleu was it another eruption warning?
Roseau on Dominica was a good example of a Caribbean town with its decaying colonial architecture, colourful shuttered houses with tin roofs and a few ornate balconies. Nearby Trafalgar Falls was spectacular and reached by walking through the rainforest.
Portsmouth was a wet and windy place when we arrived. A shanty town battered by hurricanes with rusting hulks along the beaches. Boat boys touting for business zoom around in wooden boats. We took a tour up Indian River in a wooden boat rowed by a local guide. This meandering, densely overhung jungle river was used in one of Pirates of the Caribbean movies where Cap'n Sparrow went to see a witchdoctor. We reached a jungle camp where you could spend a night or two. Just as well they don't have alligators.
It was a bit of a jump in culture to arrive at Bourg de Saintes on an island south of Guadeloupe. Nestled between green hills it was very picturesque and very French. Fort Napoleon was a long walk up a hill but worth it for the views and museum. Baie de Marigot on the other side, with its brilliant blue waters, was picture perfect.
Moving to the main island, we spent a night on our own at Pigeon Island (off Pt Malendure) after snorkelling there. At last, lots of fish. Big parrot fish swim so close you can almost touch them. Curious fish of all shapes and colours make this a great spot.
On to the top of Guadeloupe, we anchored at Deshaies. It was a bit congested and a French group on a live-aboard did little for the entente cordial by yelling abuse at us as we cruised by looking for a spot. We refrained from returning the stream of foul language but, in a calm polite tone when we were close enough, made a comment that had them explode like a cage full of screaming monkeys. Everywhere else we found the French to be polite, helpfull and welcoming.
The next morning it was too rough to attempt the sand area to the north of the island so we decided to venture over to Montserrat and check out its active volcano. It put on an impressive display as we passed and we anchored in the north at Little Bay in order to escape the fall out. Apparently the north is normally free from fall out but we awoke to find the boat covered in a thin layer of ash and it was still falling. We didn't hang around to set foot on the island, it had set foot on us!
After carefully weaving through the shallow water to get into Jolly Harbour on Antigua, we spent the rest of the day getting Fandango clean. Despite so much hose water, we are still finding ash days later.
We bused around to St Johns, Falmouth and English Bays. Nelson's dockyard was interesting and has been well preserved.
Trevor went back to the UK for a fortnight and Fandango went over to Pinney's Beach above Charlestown Harbour on Nevis.
17 February 2010
We have had trouble with poor quality Selden equipment. Also, spinnaker and whisker poles are hard to come by unless you have them specially ordered in at great expense. They can break easily and are overpriced. Out of the blue, the Memsahib casually suggests using a bamboo pole and arranges a suitable length to be delivered to the boat for the price of a few beers.
What a brilliant idea! Heather named her creation Bamboozle. Within half an hour the bamboo ends are trimmed, the pole ends with beaks are cut and fitted into the hollow sleeves. Some packing pieces, some circlips and voila. Lighter and stronger than aluminium. It floats, no one would nick it, it's environmentally sensitive, looks really cool and it works.
17 February 2010
During our tour of eateries in St Lucia, we stumbled upon Spinnakers Restaurant & Bar right on the beach at Rodney Bay, a delightful spot. There are times when the waves are so big that a temporary sand bank has to be built up in order to protect the buildings.
Back to the table. On the menu was Caesar Salad constructed according to a recipe passed down to Michael, the proprietor, by his Grandfather who was trained in London by Escoffier himself.
After some discussion, we were honoured to have a new salad named "Fandango Salad". Too late to make the printing of their 2010 menu, it is one of their specials and well worth trying.
MEET THE CREW 2010
03 February 2010
Lydie & Veronique
French/Australian. They christened Fandango in Les Sables d'Olonne, France in 2008 and waved her off on her final leg to Oz from Ile des Pins, New Caledonia in 2010. Our gastronomic minders. Lydie also lives in the Whitsundays.
- Oct & Nov
Dutch. There is not much that Joy hasn't done or seen. His massage techniques are in great demand by the ladies and he always has a bottle of cognac to hand for après.
Australian from the Whitsundays. Another party animal. Has trouble with counting. She is certain that she saw a certain person from Fandango drink 5 Atlases (see blog) one evening!
- Sep to Nov
Australian from the Whitsundays. Party animal and ace for his fish curries served with or without "Atlas" (see blog). Our tender, named Dingo, is rated for 3.5 people of whom Bernard would account for around 2.5. Still, we managed to get 3 more in and have plenty of freeboard.
- Sep & Oct
Scottish/Australian. My better half back for another serve of paradise. See "Meet the Crew" 2008 & 2009.
- Aug & Sep
Mexican. Taking a break from sailmaking in the Whitsundays, this mad Mexican wants to sail a small boat around the world. Six metre waves in a bigger boat haven't put him off!
- May & on
Antiguan/Italian. From a really enthusiastic and accomplished sailing family, she is keen to explore the Pacific. With many miles on and below decks she once cooked for fifteen people for three months on a two burner stove in a small galley like ours! On Fandango we all share the cooking and eat out whenever we can.
- May & on
Brazilian. A very experienced sailor who plays the saxophone well (yes, on board). Of course he has the national love of football and our SSB receiver will be busy during the world cup.
- May & on
Italian. A keen sailor on sabbatical from the well dressed end of London. He is our whistling troubadour and serenades us with guitar in the evening. He runs several kilometres whenever he can and keeps in good shape.
- March & April
American. Outward bound/NOLS leader. He can do more push ups than I can count and can put away more French fries with sauce than I can count as well. Going for his longest spell away from a barber, his locks contrast with my own and previous short shorn sailors on Fandango.
- January to March
Isle of Skye (British). Leave her in charge of your galley and the aromas will soon have the neighbouring crews over asking for a reservation. She has her sea legs but is also a keen hiker. If you lose her in the crowd, you'll find her on the other side of the island.
- November (ARC) to March
Jersey (British). Reputed to be the only yachtie who has two pairs of carefully maintained leather Dubarry sailing boots. Trevor also has one of the most carefully maintained haircuts, less than a number one - more a number 0.75.
Las Palmas to St Lucia
24 December 2009
Log reading 11,129 nautical miles
Chris, Adrian, Andrew & Trevor
Would you buy a used boat from this mob?
We left the marina to the sound of a brass band and we responded with "I come from a land down under" as loud as we could (not loud enough) on the stereo system. It was a wonderful moment waving back to the hundreds who lined the breakwaters cheering us on. It was also a wary moment as over 200 competitors and others tried to leave single file in a short period. Thank goodness the wind was gentle but a few skippers were a bit pushy.
The breeze increased as we left the harbour and moved up to the crowded starting line, crossing about 100 seconds late as planned. Turning or running down the line was not really an option with so many boats and there was one bad collision that we heard about.
After a few hours, the wind speed soon exceeded 25 knots and we dropped our cruising chute. Some boats left it too late and had trouble as it gusted higher. Some repeat ARCers had intriguing set ups (Parasailors and twistle rigs with special poles) and went like rockets.
The weather was warm and we had very little rain. We saw only one small whale (or sea monster?) that didn't break the surface and several groups of dolphins. Also a few wooden pallets and netting right in our path, obviously sent to keep us on our toes! Of the other boats, we saw only half a dozen.
We did not persevere with fishing because the hand line caught in the water generator on one occasion. Lots of small flying fish skimmed the waves and some landed on the boat, unfortunately no good for eating.
It took 18 days and seven hours, which placed us 77th on corrected time out of the 158 boats in the cruising monohull division. Fandango, below average length, was handicapped for spinnaker although she only had a cruising chute. Most of the time the wind was 15 to 20 knots with regular gusts of 25 knots or more and some nasty squalls. Our worst hit 50 knots one evening and stayed above 35 for half an hour with plenty of rain, then around 30 for about two hours.
The apparent wind angle was usually 150 to 170 degrees on our chosen course, which was based on the GRIB files and other info. We used main and poled out genoa, cruising chute with and without poled out genoa and in stronger winds just the main, which gave us excellent speed with an easy helm. The swell was usually 3 to 4 metres with half the peaks breaking into 1 metre waves. The photos don't seem to show it as it was. There were two wave directions and every so often the combined effect tried to knock our stern as we surfed down some of the waves.
We tried not to push this non-bluewater boat too hard but Fandango handled the conditions exceptionally well, giving us an amazing top speed of 13.6 knots for a few seconds hurtling down a wave, though 7 to 8 was the norm. The rolling motion didn't help our speed. During the last week without a pole we dropped down to 6 to 7 knots, which added another day to our time and robbed us of a place around position 30 out of 158. Our average speed through the water for the whole trip was just below 7 knots. Through the water distance was nearly 3000nm but instrument problems stopped us from getting an accurate reading. We used the autopilot and then hand steered for the last 3 days when it packed up. Steering by hand was surprisingly enjoyable during our shortened solo 2 hour watches.
The crew worked and relaxed together exceptionally well. Their good humour made the crossing very enjoyable and I wish we were together for the Pacific run of an even greater distance.
Whilst boat speed and handling were a credit to the designer, Marc Lombard, some of the equipment let us down. A bad installation by Jeanneau finally surfaced and caused the Raymarine autopilot, radar (for squalls at night) and the wind instruments to shut down after a fortnight. A Lewmar hatch leaked. The rudder bearings and Lewmar steering turning blocks made terrible noises despite heaps of lubrication. The Icom VHF radio was intermittently unable to transmit. Although it gave us all the electricity we needed, the Duogen water driven generator broke its drive shaft couplings twice. We had to unbolt this 25kg monster off the back of the boat to bring it inboard for repairs whilst riding the big waves. The watermaker was superb but it dropped a bolt from its mounting. Problems with Selden reefing, sheaves, pole and prod caused damage to lines etc. The pole bent the first time and broke in two on two other occasions. We used broken lengths, a saw, drill and rivets to effect repairs. A Harken sheet winch died (making 3 out of the 4 on board to fail at some time or another since new). The chart plotter worked but when we got near to St Lucia the data input died so we could not get shore detail and had to rely on our backup computer navigation systems. The Yanmar engine hours gauge went blank. Oh and the Iridium satellite phone, not long out of warranty, died half way through the crossing. Nice one Murphy!
Our troubles whilst frustrating were nothing compared to some unfortunate boats. How about getting knocked down in a squall whilst all your port holes were left open? Or perhaps no electricity whatsoever for the whole trip? Rigging failure or a broken rudder etc etc.
We entered Rodney Bay and crossed the line on our own. It took a bit of getting used to being on a beat after so long. An official photographer snapped away but no gun. We prepared the boat for the narrow entrance into the marina. What were those long round things with lines attached? Ah, that's right!
As we docked, an ARC official greeted us and another handed us a basket of fruit plus various goodies including a magnum of beer (yes, beer). A mobile barman poured us stiff rum punches and a solo steel pan drummer set the mood. People came to say hello. My Heather had just arrived, also Adrian's wife, Hilary. What a welcome!
The last (damaged) boat has made it in late at night to a cheering crowd. The parties are over, the tales to tell mostly told and many of the boats have left. We have been cleaning up, repairing, diving and sightseeing around this attractive island and will do more. Chris and Adrian have just left for a cold and snowy UK. Trevor stays on for more rum and bananas. We are grounded, figuratively speaking, but looking forward to a relaxed Christmas and Hogmanay as we wait for parts and for the Wifi to work again.
In the New Year Heather returns to Oz. Another Heather, who did the ARC on another boat, joins Trevor and I for a trip to Antigua and thereabouts. From there Fandango heads back down to the Grenada and then westward to Panama.
22 November 2009
The ARC crew: Trevor, Andrew, Adrian and Chris
We start at 1300hrs today from outside the harbour here in Las Palmas. The partying has been good. The seminars and organisation excellent. Most maintenance issues were completed but the Schaub Lorenz TV, bought in France, was just out of its one year warranty (a joke anyway) and we couldn't get a new part. It joined the jetsam stacked up in the car park.
The Aussie flag was carried in the parade to the hoisting area by children from Nike, one of the few other Aussie boats. Two others, including myself, carried their Aussie boat flag. It was a good show.
Las Palmas has an old town that we enjoyed, especially Christopher Columbus' home and now museum. The cathedral was impressive and I managed to sneak through a door that a staff member had left slightly open and saw some amazing things before I was asked to leave.
Wifi has been a big problem, as always, with limited access caused by the number of people trying to get on to poorly managed installations. Just walking around and waiting for a connection takes hours.
The five dunnies in the shower blocks for the 800 or more male crew on ARC boats survived reasonable well.
We found muesli and Pier 19 has lovely waitresses, oh and the food's good too.
It will soon be time to crank up the volume on "I come from a land down under ..." as we leave our cramped berth. If you want to check our progress across the Pond go to www.worldcruising.com/arc/ and click on the Fleet Viewer on the right hand side.
See you in St Lucia.
Gibraltar to Las Palmas, Gran Canarias, October
08 November 2009
Log reading 8,270 nautical miles
Methane Power in Meknes with wind on the nose, yet again!
Well we managed to get most things done to Fandango by working and waiting long hours. It would have been nice to catch up with all our friends in Gib but we were moved from customs dock to marina, marina to yard, yard to workshop, workshop to the other marina. The blue water rally was coming and marinas kept heaps of places open every day for boats that didn't come while we were there. In the end we were told to go despite the vacancies. Marina managers were clearly doing a lousy job.
Gib is a place of dust, grime and chewing gum covered pavements. The ugly buildings grow like mushrooms from the reclaimed land and the work ethic may be an indication of why Britain is in such an economic mess. The rock itself and the old town are enjoyable but you only need a day.
Sailing through the night to Morocco's west coast, we reached the Bouregreg River and its marina on the Salé side. A marina boatman led Fandango up the silted river to our first taste of Moroccan officialdom. Allowing for their lunch break, prayers and the first of two canine inspections, we completed check-in after about three hours. Every official was polite and had a warm smile that didn't need much coaxing. We were discovering that Moroccans are delightful people. French works better than English.
The marina was new and trying to be a bit swish. The king's five powerboats, in sizes from thirty to fifty feet had their own pontoon next to ours. Gun-toting guards were everywhere. That night we saw the kasbah (fortified citadel) which contained the medina (Arab quarter or old town) and a small souq (markets including stalls in lanes as well as squares). You might be tested on this later.
The next day we crossed the river and explored the harbour fort, kasbah, medina and souq at Rabat. Huge cemeteries ran down to the sea and would be a challenge for any developer. There were a few touristy bits but otherwise this was the real McCoy. Lunch was enjoyed in a typically small (four tabled) restaurant overlooking a souq, complete with pictures of the owners family and decorations that only a Berber would hang on the walls. "Colour me Moroccan" would be a good name for a Dulux paint catalogue. The crockery and carpets are dazzling and every pattern has a story.
A few days inland were planned. The river ferry was rowed by Charon himself, judging by his age, but we made it to the Rabat side for a trip by coach to Meknes. Storks can be seen occasionally on high perches but the other regular sight is not so nice. Black polythene bags are strewn all over the sandy hills round towns and at first they seem like thousands of crows looking for worms.
As with many parts of Europe, chewing gum is stuck to everything including the seat you are sitting on. You soon notice that it is often green in colour and wonder if it is a coincidence or a religious duty. Thinking about it now, the sea along the Moroccan coast was also green.
Old Meknes was wonderful and our hotel very old world quaint. We hired a guide and a horse drawn carriage and did all the palaces, the huge granary, lakes and gardens. Fascinating. The old sultans certainly had an eye for grandeur with style and let nothing stand in their way. In the afternoon we hired a taxi and looked around some interesting roman ruins and a holy hill town that didn't impress us.
We dined at another of these incredibly decorated small family restaurants, more like being in their living room. Lounging on pillows and soaking up the ambiance was a joy and the only things missing were a belly dancer and the smell of camels.
The busses were not very punctual so by taking a first class compartment in a train to Fez, we were soon enjoying the huge medina and its many souqs. A guide is needed so that you don't get lost and we took one but by now we were old hands at the medina mazes. Tajine Tummy struck me first and later the others on separate occasions. It's not as bad as Delhi Belly and soon fixed with Lopermide.
From Fez we bussed to Chaouen and lunched in a pretty square before arriving in Tangiers. I was fascinated by its medina in 1974 but now found it dull compared to what we had seen. Like Istanbul, it seemed to have been westernised. We could have missed it out but it completed the tour for David and Linda and stopping here by boat didn't appear easy after looking out over the cramped yacht club.
Train back to Salé meant more vistas of black polythene bags and a sandy but fertile countryside. It's hard to know where you are with so few station identification signs, especially at night, but it all adds to the fun and is much more comfortable than taking a camel. We actually saw one.
To leave the marina meant another couple of hours of paperwork and a second canine inspection. We were soon to find out that every port requires the full monty of customs, police, immigration and health check, as well as the first three on the way out. We decided to minimise on ports and do a night passage later on.
Not far from Mohammedia, fog moved in as dusk approached. Our chart plotter showed few depths for the fairly large port and lights indicated substantial redevelopment from what we had on the screen. Radar helped us spot fishing boats with no lights as well as a few ships waiting their turn for loading. We nearly gave it away but got some directions over the VHF. With visibility no more than one hundred meters, we entered the older part of the harbour and spotted the end of the pontoon. Not a nice place but we managed to get a very helpful official that evening to do all the paperwork, so that we could go inland the following morning.
We took a train to Marrakech where we guided ourselves to many places of interest and even ventured into the narrow lanes. Only once did we get lost for a very short while. One person had deliberately misdirected us so that we could be picked up by another and redirected for a small fee. They talk about Berber hospitality but it has a meter attached to it.
We visited what we were told was the world's most luxurious hotel by bluffing our way through several security posts (are you guests? etc) and had a beer in a courtyard overlooking the gardens. Suites were only AUD 10,000 a night but no breakfast of course.
Where we stayed was much nicer. Although not quite completed, it was a refurbished traditional Moroccan "residence". The owner, a well connected retired doctor from Monaco, offered us this because his similar five roomed boutique pension was full. This was also an absolute gem. The doors and décor were magnificent. Veiled from the tattered lanes, the cloistered tiled courtyard and a family's boudoirs were ours to enjoy alone. To stay here alone was worth the trip. Marrakech, cleaner but more expensive, certainly had soul and flair.
We returned to Mohammedia by train and from there sailed to El Jadida, an ugly and smelly oil and gas port. Checking in and out has to be done by the boat's "Capitan" on his own whilst the crew are confined to the boat. The harbour master asked for a "cadeau" so I gave him some stuff we didn't want anyway. This was the only baksheesh attempt in Morocco. The other authorities had the usual fun of trying to workout why the passports had no town of issue. I told them it was Canberra but they insisted Sydney was the capital and that they had never heard of Canberra. The ensuing geography lesson took about half an hour and involved six students. I noticed that the big automatics some were carrying had no magazines and they were not evident elsewhere.
We motored through the night to Agadir and had a short sail in the morning. Here the authorities had magazines in their guns because I asked them to show me by removing them from their closed holsters. I told them about El Jadida and they laughed. I didn't push my luck and ask to see the bullets. One was in a grey uniform, one dark blue and one sky blue. As with the others, they behaved like school kids comparing notes and writing down everything they could think of from the boat's papers and the passports. The dark uniform won because he had more printed forms. Canberra caused the same problem but it was a sunny afternoon and they had come to the boat. So we chatted for a while and then watched an acrobatic display put on by the crew from a group of visiting yachts promoting educational assistance for third world countries.
Agadir had a smart looking marina but the toilets stank because there was no water. The fuel pump had broken down, so we spent half a day getting it by jerry cans from the town. From our taxi, we saw a cyclist knocked off his bike by a car. He moved but would have been badly injured. After fun and games with the authorities, that night we sailed for Lanzarote and made for Puerto Calero, a very smart marina but little else apart from condos for the sun-hungry Brits.
Next stop was Ensenada Deposo Negro on Fuerteventura. Being volcanic, the "negro" bit is everywhere and not very attractive on the beaches. On to Puerto de Morro where we had to launch the tender to get from the pontoon to the key. The money had run out to complete the job. Nearby was a large ferry that produced the most amazing noises from inside for some time. They sounded just like the roars of beasts from Jurassic Park. We didn't go to check it out in case they were! After a long walk we found a restaurant strip by the beach, overlooked by more condos. They were everywhere. Early next morning we set out for Gran Canaria.
We had seen dolphins but we were now getting more flying fish. These can skim the water for fifty meters or more and have been known to land on decks. Also several turtles but they were motionless as we passed. We also noticed the wind farms and cultivation of huge areas under netting.
Our first choice on the plotter turned out to be an industrial hole, so we travelled further down the coast. Anchoring in the bay behind Punta del Gando, we heard a siren from the shore directed at us. We waited and eventually a policy RIB came out to us. The senior of the two didn't want to get his feet wet on the ramp so it took an extra twenty minutes for him to get to a pontoon. Despite anchor symbols over the area, we were in a military zone and had to leave. Also in the military zone were restaurants, car parks, swimmers etc. There was however an airport nearby. On our way out of the bay two jet fighters shot overhead and circled the area. We were most impressed.
Playa de Arinja made a good anchorage. No sirens here so we went ashore to eat at this lacklustre holiday town.
On to Puerto de Mogan where we anchored and explored the rocks and caves nearby. This was much better, with a more upmarket holiday development so we ate well that night.
Puerto de Galera on Tenerife had a marina which we used to escape the strengthening winds on this coast exposed to the prevailing winds. They had wifi but it didn't reach the boat. The lass at reception was very helpful and let me sit in the club's boardroom for the best signal.
We pushed up against the wind to reach Santa Cruz harbour and tied up at the yacht club. There is little left of the fort that was here when Nelson lost his arm to El Tigre, the famous cannon.
Crossing back to Gran Canaria, we got the only spot against the harbour wall at Puerto de Las Nieves as it was getting rough outside. With 12 knots of wind plus strong gusts blowing us on, we hung all our ten fenders and allowed for the tide on our lines before looking around this fishing village. A few years ago there was an unusual rock formation of a hand with a long finger pointing up from just outside the harbour. "The Finger of God" it was named but after it collapsed it was just another rock to avoid. It is sad because it was their grand claim to fame and we even ate in a restaurant named after it.
After a roughish trip we arrived in Las Palmas. A fire tug came to greet us with water cannons firing jets high into the air. Well, perhaps they were just practising but it looked as if they were saluting us and we felt very welcome.
Into the marina with ARC flag now hoisted, we joined the others that would soon number around 250 boats. There was also a good number of non-ARC boats that would cross with us.
The ARC crew were due in a few days. David and Linda had a stay planned in the UK before flying back to Oz. For me it was the usual hassle with equipment and parts that nobody has, as well as counting out baked beans for the crossing. The starter motor had burnt out when we moved to another pen, the TV had died, the DVD player was giving trouble, the tender had a slow puncture, the VHF cockpit extension didn't transmit, the rust stains were getting serious plus over twenty other maintenance issues. At least the bottle of malt still worked.
Palma de Mallorca to Gibraltar, September
27 September 2009
Log reading 7,202 nautical miles
Calla Badella, near Bali Hai
We revisted Calla Portals with its three nudist beaches. The water was still warm but the wind found its way into the small bay. My reading that day included a list of Imray publications of maps and pilots for the months ahead. For a few seconds I pondered item RB0073 "The Gentleman's guide to Southern Passages" and found myself gazing towards the nearest beach.
An early start for Ibiza and Cala Portinatx with its interesting rocky formations. Then Calla Badella where we anchored in a steep sided gorge. Very pretty scenery along this coast although not as good as western Mallorca. We swam to the beach and enjoyed some more eye candy, probably our last.
Not far away we saw the majestic rocky peak of Illa d'es Vedra that I understand was used for the distant island shots in the film Bali Hai. I think they obtained beach scenes elsewhere.
An early start for Puerto de Calpe on the mainland. A massive rock stands over the small port like a sentinel to the parade of fishing boats that race beneath late in the afternoon and out again before dawn the next day. Seagulls with their distinctive cries follow like vultures.
Danny observed that the water was getting cooler but for a Scott it is still like a warm bath. Puerto Torrevieja offered shelter from the wind but little else, other than a fuel depot that said open with the times listed but was actually closed.
Puerto de Aguilas was a little better and we went ashore. Eventually we stumbled upon a steep back street with chairs inclined with the gradient. Wisely choosing to face downhill to dine, we enjoyed a local scene that shone through the urban mediocrity that hides these gems. Crammed in on small wickerwork chairs, the locals were having a good time and, as darkness came, we were swirled into a small crowd of young people ready to party. We enjoyed the atmosphere but it was time to go back and anyway we didn't have our castanets. Adios the neighbours said warmly and the sailors walked back into mediocrity.
Almeria was the highlight on this coast. Our anchorage was a little wobbly but we're used to it. The Moorish Alcazaba (castle) was well worth visiting and the back streets through which we walked were enjoyable. After an excellent time it was a shame that the fuel depot at Club de Mar tried to charge us for fuel we didn't get, early the next day.
At first we thought it was the old hose trick because it was exactly 20 litres out. The meter didn't display, so it may have been the meter trick. Cash, no docket or receipt, so we demanded a docket. He reluctantly gave us one where the fuel amount had been changed by 20 litres. Caught in the act but of course he couldn't speak any English. I reported him to the club by email as we couldn't hang around and boats were waiting.
Many areas along the south coast are draped in plastic sheeting to protect the huge veggie patches that feed much of northern Europe in the winter. Combine these with the ugly sprawling high rise developments for budget holidaymakers, a few wind farms and you have a sad landscape.
Puerto de Adra was very windy and needed plenty of chain. No inspiration to go ashore, so we watched the fishing boats surge past us as we clung to our beers.
We tried to anchor in Puerto de Motril for a late lunch and perhaps the night but were moved on. A very unfriendly place. Hundreds of seagulls were sheltering behind the breakwater. Outside, the wind was whipping up three metre waves that were on the nose but, after a few hours, we reached a lovely little bay on the southern side of the Marina del Este. A posh marina and a lovely dinner but, more importantly, Danny found a shop with a jar of Bovril! His day was made when the English proprietors offered it to him for half price as they were going out of business. Times have been hard this year.
Benalmadena, next door to Torremolinos is mega tourist. We found the marina and staff pretty useless as usual eg locks that don't work, water that doesn't flow. They put us in a stern-to spot that the neighbouring boats had swung into. The wind was 18 knots in the marina and we motored back to the marina office to tell them this but they couldn't give a ... We can't wedge in as our stern is almost our widest part and Danny can only work one side at a time. So we crept up and down the quay asking for volunteers to pull the boats apart. We soon had several decent yachties to open up the gap and shoe-horn us in. It worked a treat.
The next day we had to move to the Jeanneau agent's pen and had the same problem with badly tied boats. The absent windward neighbour had his boat leaning on us for a week and the fenders called out to me every night to let me know. I hope there is a little gelcoat left by the time we get back to Oz.
Jeanneau's agent Benalnautic was Roberto the manager, English liaison Mark and our assigned Mr Fixit, Francisco. Hi Oh, France soon gave the OK to fix some items and Francisco completed the work a day ahead of schedule. I was impressed with Francisco's speed and expertise. I wished I could pack him in a locker next to the tool kit.
Danny left for the airport and Chris joined me for the fifty mile trip to Gibraltar. Motor and Genoa but at least we were off the wind. We had emailed 10 days ahead to both Marina's but they were "full". At Marina Bay we counted 22 places at 2300 hours but they had promised these to the "Blue Water Rally" participants when they turned up anytime over the next week. A dozen non-rally boats a day were being turned away. It looked like a severe case of bad organising, not what you would expect from the Brits. Must be all that paella and sun.
Security is tight in Gib with so many illegals trying to get in and the threat of terrorism. There is no marina pen and anchoring is not allowed. You can't go ashore outside a marina until you have registered with a marina and been given a pen. The only alternative is to go to the Spanish side at La Linea, change the courtesy flag and wait for a spot but you can't enter Gib waters by tender. I had to get the boat in for antifouling, servicing, provisioning etc.
The only suitable structure for docking was a pontoon at the Port Authority and Customs dock, absolutely verboten we were told. After a lot of jawing, I found out that the pontoon belonged to a ferry company which had leased that part of the dock from the port authority. Bingo, we had a loophole that meant customs and the port authority couldn't give us permission to dock or force us to leave.
Customs couldn't register our entry, only a marina, so that evening we talked our way past customs and illegally entered the country to sort out the marina issue and arrange for Chris to catch a bus the following day.
The next day the ferry company gave us unofficial permission to stay until we got into a marina. However, we were warned that the police had the power to move us on because there was a fuel depot nearby.
The marina, only one hundred metres from our pontoon, was tactfully made to see the financial benefit of filling one of the many spaces until Monday. We were now legal but only just in time as a senior customs officer stormed over to demand we left immediately or we would be fined and impounded.
Chris got his bus and now it's raining like it does in the UK, miserably. Fandango waits until Monday for a lift out, providing it's OK with the stevedores. Where we go after that will require some of finagling.
Catania, Italy to Mallorca Spain, August
06 September 2009
Log reading 6,688 nautical miles
Norman Castle at Cefalu, Sicily
Catania to Porto Palo, on the south eastern tip of Sicily, was a reasonable run with the Genoa to assist the motor. The weather forecasts were for storms north of us and we saw lightening and dark clouds. A few drops of rain for us but nothing more.
At Porto Palo the sun was low, the anchor was in and Fandango was gradually taking up the chain as we drifted back. Standing on the foredeck and looking down, the shape of a wrecked fishing boat suddenly appeared through the murky water just to our side and leaving insufficient clearance. It looked really spooky but there was no time to gaze. The anchor came up in a flash and we tiptoed to another spot.
It was decided to say farewell to Italy by drinking more wine than normal from our cellar, carefully selected by Attila who, with Urs, cooked a tasty meal. In reasonable shape the next morning, we set out for Malta and even sailed for a while without the engine. On the way, a pigeon circled the boat and landed on the bimini for a rest. It left a calling card and then flew off to Italy, probably not realising that we had been sailing away from Italy and it would have to make up the extra miles.
That afternoon saw us at San Niklaw on Comino Island, Malta. There are not many anchorages and this one was crowded. It also had jelly fish and Urs was stung. With a mask you can at least see and avoid them. Nothing interesting ashore so we ate on board again. Attila and Urs are very accomplished in the galley. Attila has his own crepe pan and yes, they were delicious. Theo would have been impressed.
A two hour trip to Valletta and wow, what an impressive group of heavily fortified harbours. No room at the Grand Harbour marina, so we picked up a vacant mooring in a spot nearby which had more breeze and did we need it. We took an open-top bus ride round half of the island and saw many old buildings, often with fascinating doors and doorways. We were told that there weren't many tourists because they avoided the hotter months like the one we were in. Malta had an odd feel about it, as if it had closed shop after the British left.
We dined both nights at an outdoor restaurant at the foot of a fort near the boat. A small docking area and a series of archways made it magic. The ambiance was Knights of St John and rule Britannia. I imagined Hornblower stepping on to the quay and asking for rum.
Adrian flew back to the UK and we had some overnight trips to do, the first leg was to Lampedusa. It was disappointing for a nature reserve, however, we did find some pleasant snorkelling with small numbers of three types of fish. One of these had what appeared to be folding wings and sat on the bottom pretending not to be there. On route later we saw hundreds of "compass" jellyfish sliding past the boat.
The second leg was to Pantelleria and it was also disappointing. The third was to Tunis. A calm sea again meant that we were doing a lot of motoring. Pollution and azure water welcomed us to Sidi Bou Said marina just outside Tunis and near the President's Palace. His photograph was absolutely everywhere. The French legacy made it easier to communicate but harder to get things done on time, just like Les Sables d'Olonne.
Old Carthage, close to Tunis, had a lot to offer but we had the usual hassle with taxi drivers which reduced the number of places we managed to see. Impressive was the old king's palace, now museum, with Moorish ceiling embellishments which reminded me of the Alhambra.
The medina was fascinating and we explored a bit off the tourist lanes and walked up to the roof tops for good views. We decided to follow up on a recommendation and eat posh that night in the medina. There were no signs outside the huge ancient wooden door studded with iron at 5-10 Rue Dar El Jeld, La Kasbah. The door opened immediately upon knocking and Attila, Urs and I were each handed a small bound posy of scented buds. We were escorted through rooms with antiques and sat down for drinks whilst our table was prepared. The staff, immaculately dressed in an east meets west conservative style, completed the Hercule Poirot setting. I returned to this century just as the maitre d' arrived and wished to inform us that our table was ready.
We were escorted to our table through an impressive doorway into a series of tiled rooms hung with chandeliers worth six figures each. Well, the others were escorted, I was discretely whisked away to another chamber. In tropical north Queensland, eating posh means tucking your clean polo shirt into your shorts. Sacre blue, not here mate! I was kitted out in a full length white embroidered gown to cover my shorts (the others wore trousers) and only then escorted to our table.
Not wanting to let the side down, I did my best impression of Lawrence of Arabia and held my gown as I had seen others do and slowly flowed past the tables to where the others were seated. Gracious smiles were exchanged with other patrons as I tried to look normal. I must admit I got a buzz out of it. The comfortable chairs had padded arms and the food was excellent. The walls and floors were tiled in a similar style to that of the palace visited earlier and the ambiance elevated by a musician playing what I presumed was traditional music on a strange stringed instrument. It was an excellent evening and on our way out our hands and arms were sprinkled with rose water. The huge heavy door closed behind us and so did a portal to another world.
Back at the marina, the laundry index hit a new high with 8kg costing over AUD60. The internet place wanted to close just after I had started and promised they would turn it on for me the next morning. No chance. Peut-etre après midi? Too late we were gone.
We stopped to top up fuel in Bizerte where they did the hose trick and tried to overcharge. However the fuel was at least cheaper than in the EU. Customs and immigration nearly gave us a hard time because we had been cleared out at Tunis and therefore had to re-enter again to get the fuel. A few smiles and the fact that we were preventing other boats from refuelling sped the process up to one form only partly completed. We should have done this again for our next stop at Galite but we took a chance that there would be nobody about and we were right.
Isle de la Galite, off Tunisia. What a big name for such a small place with a bay surrounded by hills. Very imposing and some shelter from the strengthening winds. From here the next morning we set out for a 48 hour trip to Menorca. Urs, an ex professional chef, assisted by Attila made meal times look easy from a small galley.
Some sailing but mostly motoring brought us to Cala Binibeca in Menorca, a pleasant bay with nothing much to offer. Weather was brewing north of Menorca so we kept south and reached the old capital of Puerto Ciudadela, which we enjoyed although nothing exceptional. The next day we set out for Mallorca to escape the force 8 coming down from the north. We had some lively sailing with a four to five metre swell and a few big rogue waves amongst it.
The majestic cliffs of northern Mallorca loomed up against a cloudy backdrop and we found shelter in Cala Murta, a beautiful high sided small bay. We saw wild goats and enjoyed the panorama of huge craggy rocks dotted with trees similar to a Japanese painting. Next Cala de la Calobra with its rock tunnel and then on to Puerto de Soller, where we took the tramway to the old town but decided to move on. That night found us at Peninsula de la Foradada. The NW coast has some magnificent cliffs but this place took the cake. Our spot was once used by an Austrian duke to moor his yacht and no wonder.
Back to the big smoke but first a night at Cala Portals, with its caves, just south of Palma at the mouth of the bay. Heaps of boats but by dusk the number had reduced to us and two others.
The smell of Palma invaded our noses and the pollution haze spoilt the view. We took a berth in the RCNP marina as we had done last year. Charges were higher but the wifi was still not working in the marina area. That night up in the old town main plaza the six or so restaurants were almost empty all evening. It was hard to believe after the number of people I saw there last year. Our waiter confirmed that this year had been a very bad one for those that survive on tourists. Before leaving Palma, I revisited the cathedral and marvelled again at the intricate masonry.
Attila and Urs left and Danny joined Fandango for the next leg to Benalmadeena and my confrontation with Jeanneau.
Split, Croatia to Catania Italy, August
18 August 2009
Log reading 5,759 nautical miles
Mt Etna side vent
Theo, George, Adrian and I headed south from Trogir (next to Split) to Stari Grad on Hvar. We had a swim near the mouth of the estuary before going in to anchor. Fandango was here on the last leg and again we enjoyed this pretty harbour village and surprisingly good bread.
Our last port of call in Croatia was Vela Luka on Korcula. All the bureaucracy was in place to process our departure, except the policeman who was away that day and might be back tomorrow. The port authority lass was so apologetic and even shook my hand.
The charter business must be having a hard time because there was only one other yacht at anchor in what was last time a tightly packed harbour anchorage. This private Italian registered boat tried to anchor right on top of us, even with so many spaces available. Do yachts have pheromones? We're beginning to think so.
We enjoyed our final meal in Croatia and spent all but our last few pieces of shrapnel at the supermarket because Kuna would be hard to change outside Croatia. On the way back to the boat we gave the shrapnel to some kids who, like most Croatians, spoke good English.
No time to hang around waiting for the police, so we sailed at dawn the following morning as scheduled. After eleven hours with genoa and main up to assist the motor, we made Vieste on the Italian mainland. We decided to use the marina because of exposure at anchor. It was expensive, in cash as usual in Italy and the showers weren't working.
The old town was a bit of a come down from what we were used to in Croatia and the service was so bad in the first restaurant we tried that we walked out. On our way back to Fandango, we were amazed to find a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig lying in front of the marina gate. I gave her a good rub and a scratch and she made little sniffling noises in appreciation. Her minder appeared and after a few snorts they went back to her pen.
Another early start to cross the Gulf of Manfredonia and head down to Monopoli. There was just enough wind angle to get the genoa working with the motor but after a couple of hours it was, you guessed it, on the nose. We enjoyed Monopoli's interesting old buildings.
Brindisi was a long run and we got into the big harbour just as a storm was brewing. We anchored close to a big monument which turned out to be a tribute to Mussolini. Near us was a large Italian warship but no activity. A few old buildings ashore but nothing special.
The wind was up at dawn when we left. We cruised past Otranto but kept going to Santa Maria di Leuca on the very tip of Italy's heel. Storm clouds, gusty winds and rain met us before we rounded the cape but fizzled out as we turned. We had a mediocre meal and there was not much to look at.
Next stop was Cretone. Nothing much here either. Early the next day we moved on to Roccella Ionica. Fandango pulled in here last year. The place was falling apart and now even the washing machine has gone from the shower block. You need to carry your own toilet paper and soap with you for some toilets in marinas and restaurants. But here at least the beer was cold and pizza sold by the metre.
The following day it was a 0500 hour start for Catania in Sicily. The horizon was starting to lighten as we negotiated our way past the badly silted approach to the harbour and edged out to sea. There were storms brewing behind us but our forecast was good and it turned out to be a lovely day for the 80 nm trip. We saw dolphins and actually got the main up again and sailed with the motor off!
Catania had a big harbour with two fuel wharfs that were inaccessible. Our marina, the best there, had one portaloo for all the boats, as well as low pressure hose water and electricity on the pontoons. Behind this disappointing marine door mat and through the rubbish strewn streets, we found some intricately decorated old buildings. The city was dirty with the excuse that Mt Etna might wipe it out again at any moment. This tends to make you eat your pasta looking frequently over your shoulder, as you work the al dente down the hatch.
I find the Italian obsession with beauty and style irreconcilable with the rubbish found everywhere and the dirty, ugly modern buildings. The young so slim and good looking but a generation later so fat and unappealing.
Attila and Urs joined us making six and the next day with two hire cars we went to check out Mt Etna. It was big, smoking and had a habit of burying things nearby every few years. The steaming crater around which we walked wasn't there two years ago. Many people were coughing from the dust and sulphur, which were good excuses for a birra further down the mountain. Then we saw Taormina and the roman theatre further up the east coast.
On day two, we drove to picturesque Cefalu and had a chance to go inside the Norman cathedral. Later, Monreal was enjoyable with another Norman cathedral in excellent condition and finally on to Trapani. Nothing here to interest us but George was delighted when he knew he wouldn't miss his flight. We stayed the night near Trapani and saw Roman ruins in various spots on the two day drive back through the bucolic countryside to Fandango at Catania. The most impressive was the Roman Villa Imperiale del Casale with, I am told, the best roman mosaics in the world. It certainly had me floored.
It was our final night in Catania with Theo leaving the next morning. He was a bit off colour in the afternoon and may have been suffering from gelatinitis. Tomorrow Attila, Urs, Adrian and I sail for Porto Palo and then to Malta.
Krk to Split July
30 July 2009
Log reading 5,191 nautical miles
Blue Grotto on Bisevo
We returned to Rab and enjoyed a nice stroll along the promenade draped with sunbathers, some less modest than others. We checked if the tower was still standing with its dilapidated banisters. Very picturesque.
Novalja above Pag on Pag was next. We had a tip from the Perth couple on "9 Lives" about a posh winery/restaurant not far from here. We tried the wines and bought the best of the famous Pag cheeses. A nice change from the usual fare. Next day, Pag on Pag was just around the corner but the wind had come up and robbed us of a leisurely broad reach.
We found an excellent anchorage at Zadar and stayed two nights in order to see the old town properly. It was well worth it and we even climbed the bell tower's 180 odd steps.
The first night we dined in a courtyard under a big tree. The young waitress' meticulous makeup reminded me of queen Nefertiti. This attractive Croatian smiled and laughed with very little effort on our part. Then in flowed a tanned man in an amazing wide shouldered white ensemble, followed initially by attractive women also emblazoned in white and wearing a similar religious looking medallion. The waitress, these people, perhaps a party or show?
Being accustomed to eclectic discussions on the boat and having covered only that afternoon the latest findings on molecular structures, genetic re-engineering and the missing link, we found that our fellow seated patrons were from another planet and were discussing the same thing too! Check them out at www.rael.org. On levitating back to the boat, more from alcohol than molecular means, we found something that had previously disappeared and a few things that had started working again. Spooky.
Then we prepared for a clandestine re-visit to the Kornati marine national park to show Theo and Val without having to pay the exorbitant fee again (we didn't even stay the night last time but still had to pay the AUD 100 fee). We spent the previous night at Luka Zut on Zut (Zut Zut) just outside the park. This was interesting in that one of the tavernas had an amazing and expensive wine list that included Australian wines. The anchorage was crowded and Theo made sure that other boats were aware of proper proximity.
Just after dawn, in stealth mode with active radar reflector turned off and binos beamed in all directions for enemy patrol boats, we shot into the park's waters to check out the famous Otok Levrnaka and look again at Kravljacica. It was slightly greener from some rain a few days earlier but still no more inspiring than anywhere else. We saw dolphins and a big turtle on the way to the park but not in the park.
A brief interlude with the genoa unfurled brightened a long and interesting trip to see Sibenik from the waterfront and on to Skradin. The white swans were still there, now with three small signets, but the house in the old town from which we had previously heard what sounded like choir practice was silent.
We travelled down the river to Sibenik and tied up amongst the big boats next to the old town. We were allowed two hours before they would charge us the equivalent of nearly AUD 100. We saw the old town and concentrated on the famous St James Cathedral and other churches. Three of the churches were doing organ practice and the bold sounds gave life to the dark interiors. The stonemasonry was exceptionally good, not just in the churches but on doorways around the town. Sibenik, a living museum, was well worth visiting and having seen the essentials we sailed off thinking that we should have said a prayer in the church for mariners that was draped with flags from the ceiling.
Primoset was not far away and we anchored a few metres from the attractive old town by the beach. We swam and luxuriated on Fandango for over five hours before leaving by tender for our usual walk and dinner. Half way across the water, the harbour master's speed boat intercepts us and tells we can't anchor there and to move a mile to the other side of the bay. We applied our secret formula and he laughs and says OK we can stay.
We noted that the church on the hill was fairly new and were surprised by the size of the big family burial plots. Small stone slabs are used for roof tiles here and elsewhere on older houses. Walking down the lanes you can't help noticing the occasional Dalmatian dog in this their homeland.
We chose a more upmarket restaurant and were delighted to find that a traditional show was staged in the floodlit old village square right in front of us. Colourful costumes, dancing, singing and an excellent band. There were many spectators in the small square who applauded but the rest of the patrons in our restaurant just ignored them and gobbled their chips, which come with every meal as they do in Greece and Turkey. That night the wind picked up and we had to move to the other side of the bay anyway at about 5am.
The weather forecast didn't look too bad but it was a bit rough ploughing into the waves on our way to Luka Drvenik on Otok Drvenik Veli (not to be confused with Drvenik Mali but I am sure you wouldn't). Of course, not long after anchoring the wind changed to the only exposed direction in the harbour and we sat bobbing around for the rest of the afternoon. The wind didn't stop more than one hundred people, mostly youngsters, from swimming all around the small harbour. They swam across the harbour, around the edges and past the boats. One girl ferried her little white fluffy dog on an inflatable cushion to and fro across the harbour. Was there something about the water or was this home of the next Olympic swimming champion.
We walked around the harbour and were saddened to see the rubbish from a garbos strike piled up against their war memorial. That night we dined on, well, ingested something extremely overcooked whilst overlooking this giant swimming pool. The next event below us was the yacht parkathon in which keen skippers and crew try to anchor in the smallest of spaces. As more arrive with the sun's dying rays, the spaces get smaller and smaller until a few start to raft up. Our, dare I say, brilliant anchoring earlier in the day was wasted as boats got far too close to us. Back to the boat so that Theo can shoo some of them away, like a dog behind a fence he barks whenever anyone gets too close. Fortunately the wind dies overnight and in the morning the boats are still apart.
At Stari Grad on Hvar, we picked up a mooring and looked around this pretty village. We had a superb meal at a restaurant that was almost empty. The décor needed a little improvement but tourism is down and the waiter fears he may lose his job. The following morning I went back to access the internet, at last, and saw about twenty musicians with their bulky instrument cases going into the rear of the same restaurant. About half an hour later they all came out again. It looked like a secret agents' meeting strategy from Get Smart and yes, one of them did look like agent 99.
Next we reached Komiza on Vis. Another of the many pretty villages that make the Adriatic so enjoyable. We walked up a hill to an ancient fortified church but it was closed. As we were having our cleansing ale by the harbour, an old fashioned launch pulled up with a Royal Navy ensign. A captain and commander without hats and looking low key helped an elderly lady and some friends out onto the quay. We thought it very unusual but didn't rush over.
A mediocre meal by the harbour and back to Fandango. Earlier that afternoon, we took our usual care in visually checking that the anchor was properly set, done whenever I can snorkel over it. The area that looked the most inviting turned out to be a smooth rock bed with very shallow patches of sand. So we moved the anchor further out to better ground and extended the chain. Thus Fandango was lying serenely, as always, over this deceptively dangerous patch. Her allure again when at anchor was now becoming quite alarming. When we got back we found many boats had parked close to us, with anchors likely to be lying unset on this patch. At about 4am the wind increased and the boat nearest to us dragged its anchor and tried to take it up. We woke when our chain rattled and on deck saw this boat coming towards us as it slid up our anchor chain. They had plenty of crew and damage was prevented as we drifted outside the harbour with them hanging off our chain.
We re-anchored outside the harbour until daylight to avoid a repeat performance and later set out for Bisevo to see the famous Blue Grotto. It was well worth the trip to see the sunlight shining in under a ledge and illuminating this deep cave and the water beneath. The almost iridescent azure colour of the water was stunning.
As we left the grotto, the same launch as seen the evening before went past us. We noticed the name "Fair Lady" on the launch and also, waiting patiently outside, on a magnificent single funnelled early to mid nineteenth century yacht flying the RN ensign. Was this a royal yacht, a ghost ship or had we touched another time zone? She and Fandango were the only ones in a mess of yachts that morning showing a black ball and I like to think they shared a special moment as they complied with rule 30 of the "coll regs" at one end and flew Her Majesty's ensign at t'other end.
Fair Lady disappeared into the distance and we soon followed on our way to Vela Luka on Korcula. Once again an amazing number of yachts managed to squeeze into far too small a space. After unleashing Theo on the pulpit we managed to get some space. Eating in a "local" konoba made no difference to the fare but there was more folk dancing and singing later. The Croatians certainly enjoy their traditional music.
No overnight dramas with other boats. Off we went to Trstenik and were the first to anchor in this small harbour by, as the pilot guide said, and unspoilt village. This is where the famous Dingac wine comes from. We decided against paying over AUD 100 a bottle in the restaurant and bought the same labelled bottle from the supermarket at AUD 35 to take back to the boat. Sipped with the best of the Pag cheeses it was very good but not worth the price.
After a quiet night we headed for Hvar, which we visited on the previous leg and on the way did a close inspection of Korcula on Korcula from the boat. Anchoring in Hvar was even worse than last time with boats too close for comfort. Theo and Val went up to the castle whilst it was my turn to be the bulldog on the bow, telling people to sling their 'ook elsewhere. Just behind us was "9 Lives" whom we met on Pag.
Uvala Vinogradisce sounds really sumptuous, perhaps even a bit naughty. It was a simple but very pleasant inlet on Otok Sveti Klement, which sounds the exact opposite. We were in nudist territory and it made a nice change from noisy Hvar.
We explored a few other bays on the way to Luka Milna on Brac, which we were told was popular. There was not much to see and we had problems with other boats causing us to re-anchor around 3 am.
Maslinica on Solta was picturesque but the wind turned to our exposed side despite the forecast. We almost decided to stay on board for dinner but by 2000 hours the wind had abated and we felt it was safe to go ashore. That night was as calm as could be.
And finally we returned to Trogir. We explored more this time, including the impressive and beautifully carved portals of St Lawrence's Cathedral. A former bishop had a more impressive memorial in the church than Jesus. All agreed that the old town here was much nicer than nearby Split. However Trogir comes at a price and they charge you even for anchoring.
Croatia has been very enjoyable. Val leaves for France and Theo and I are joined by George and Adrian for our leg to Catania in Sicily. Better buy some wire and chain for the tender.
Corfu to Krk June July
07 July 2009
The two Ken's, John and I left Corfu early under low explosive storm clouds, dark and menacing as they rolled down the steep hills. The wind and waves were freshening and the rubbish in the water increasing. Not what the three forecasts had predicted. We ran close to Albania on the way up to Croatia having been told that pirates and aggressive coastal patrols were a thing of the past. The weather improved during the day but that night, now well offshore, we were lashed with a thunderstorm and 40 knot gusts. To remind us how puny we were on the high seas, the fluxgate compass went on the blink again. Sheet and plenty of forked lighting danced round Fandango as the storm passed overhead.
The following afternoon at Mulnat, just inside the Croatian border, we enjoyed a pleasant stroll around this quiet village. It was often hard to get the locals to smile.
Next stop was pretty Cravat just below Dubrovnik. We cleared all the paperwork but were peeved when we were told to move from our anchorage and tie up alongside the 15 metre "immigration" key. They never looked at the boats that one by one had to go through this pointless exercise before going back to re-anchor. Being VIP's, a band with marching girls had been specially organised for our arrival (see Photo Gallery). Well, we liked to think so.
We tried to find an anchorage in the estuary behind Dubrovnik but reluctantly took a berth in the expensive marina at the end. No smiles at reception. A large but neglected old manor house and grounds separated us from the road.
Dubrovnik fort was impressive. The old town inside the well maintained walls had been repaired after the recent vengeful shelling by various neighbours. Mostly the roofs and now all in matching terracotta.
We nosed our way into a very sheltered spot at Luka Polace on north west Mljet. This part of the island is a national park. Densely wooded with many firs, it was a delightful spot. A pivo (beer) by the ruined palace wall before squeezing into a mini bus to go to the island monastery. A few intricate stone and wooden carvings amongst the rough stone construction with nearly a thousand years of patina. In the stillness I mentally enrobed myself, inhaled imaginary incense and muttered a silent chant. Suppose I was unable to return to the present day? Another pivo after our walk seemed appropriate as we enjoyed the fine view and waited for the ferry. Not many tourists that day thankfully.
The rain and looming deadlines put the next main waypoint at Hvar on Otok (island) Hvar. The harbour was crammed with yachts, some even rafted together. Watching and commenting on the boats anchoring provided amusement with our pivos and peanuts before going ashore. We walked up the steps and steep paths to the fort overlooking the old town. The dank prison reminded us of what life for the unfortunate must have been like. We had more pivos in the old gun battery to ensure we were properly rehydrated for the descent back into the town.
Between Otoks Solta and Brac we set course for Otok Ciovo and Trogir close to Split's airport. Trogir has a nice old town and an interesting fort. We took a ferry to Split and bussed back. Split was well worth a visit. We didn't enter all the fee charging entrances to the palace but walked everywhere else and around the old town.
"Last drop" Ken and John flew back to the UK. "DJ" Ken and I headed off to Jadrtovac just below Sibenik. We were the only boat at anchor in this calm lake having entered the estuary under a bridge with two metres to spare. There is thunder above and tranquillity below. Mullet swirled all around us but they didn't like Ken's bait.
Next morning we motored up the Krka river past Sibenik to anchor at Skradin. The hills in places are laced with crumbling low rock walls, presumably territorial but without any livestock or crops. We have seen this in other places but it is a noticeable feature here.
Suddenly we are under attack! A wall of water dropped by a small fire fighting plane splatters nearby. Then another and another as they practise their skills on the lake we are passing through.
We enter the national park with no smiles at reception and took a ferry to the famous waterfalls set in hilly forests. Knotted tree roots and rocks sculptured by time evoked scenes from Tolkien. Very beautiful indeed and trout in all the pools above each fall. As with most of the ancient buildings and hillsides we have enjoyed, the walkways and low walls were much less fettered with safety rails than in over-regulated Australia. Although it would have been fairly easy to accidentally see the falls from the closest of perspectives, it heightened our enjoyment to be in it rather than beside it. On the way back in the ferry, the stench of burnt lamb chops confirmed that its motor did indeed run on biodiesel, as declared by a proud sign on its side.
Back down the river and on to Kornati National Park, which was a great disappointment. Long barren islands with nowhere interesting or attractive to pull into. The water is supposed to be blue but it looked just like elsewhere. We stopped for lunch at Uvala Strizna Bay (a mile SE of Kravljacica if you don't know it) to see if we could warm to it but within fifteen minutes we were jumped by rangers in a speed boat who demanded K400 (AUD100) per day. No smiles.
We picked up a buoy at Uvala Lucina on Otok Dugi. Our waitress that night actually laughed. We had worked out that you have to say something startling or cheeky and then the Adams Family frown melts. It worked sometimes on blokes too.
Pag on Otok Pag was next where we gate crashed a promotion or something in an old building used for salt making demonstrations. We sampled the famous cheese, pleasant but nothing special.
Rab on Otok Rab had a delightful old town with an ancient history. We climbed the bell tower and noted the usual lack of safety features. The wooden steps and handrails inside were loose or broken and there was nothing to stop you doing a Spiderman stunt from the large openings on each landing.
Not far was Krk on Otok (you guessed it) Krk. Not much of an old town but we found Punat nearby a more suitable anchorage and there was free wifi for the first time on our journey in Croatia.
DJ Ken left for his son's birthday party and I managed to get some work done on the boat during the thunderstorms and strong winds. Theo and Val join Fandango tomorrow and we zigzag down the Adriatic and then start heading west.
Petalas to Corfu June
16 June 2009
Gaios on Paxos
Petalas is a small, shallow bay on the mainland and, as usual, subject to gusts off the low rounded hills that surround it. A few fish farms but no tavernas. We ate on board and dug out some tinned fish. You have to wonder what they put in the can. We had to because it was all Greek to us. I say this because a few drops of the sauce landed on the vinyl upholstery causing serious stains. We thought about our stomachs.
The next day we headed up for the islands of Meganisi and Levkas, passing between them. This area is attractively wooded and offers shelter in the many bays. A good cruising ground for those not wanting to go too far afield. We passed through here on the way down to Crete last year. Now it was noticeably quieter and we headed for Tranquil Bay opposite the charter boat village of Nidri on Levkas. The water was not clear and had about two metres visibility. The weather is getting hotter with a few mosquitoes.
Narrow Levkas canal is an interesting interlude as Fandango motors up it at the regulation speed of 4 knots. The silt moves around the stakes, so you stick to the middle unless passing another boat. Forget the plotter, this is MK1 eyeball territory and the depth gauge becomes the star of the instruments panel. Six metres is the best you get and near the edges two metres can sneak up on you. The water is filthy so Polaroids are useless. On the way through here last year we bottomed well within the markers. No problems, just a rub on the bulb and a missed heartbeat. This time we had at least four metres. At the top of the canal is a swing bridge that opens on the hour. Care is needed to make sure that the gusting wind doesn't blow you into trouble as the boats bunch up waiting their turn. We allowed plenty of room but a bigger boat behind us tried to push us closer to the others who were doing the tango very close to the bridge. We stayed our ground and then the boat behind us could see the sense in keeping clear of the others and backed off. Fortunately the bridge opened on time.
We decided to explore an inland sea on the mainland and followed a dredged sea lane to do so. Lots of fish farms and the water was green not blue. We soon reached Vonitsa. It had a pretty waterfront and castle-topped hill overlooking the village. Not many boats about and we anchored in a fairly sheltered spot that gave us another great view.
There was a small area for mooring but we always prefer to anchor. Why? Well the view and sense of freedom are always worth it but also the privacy, the swimming, less noise and smell from the tavernas, traffic and neighbours (especially smokers) less likely to get things nicked or seacocks blocked with rubbish, no damage from other boats especially with mounted stern anchors, no getting squeezed between boats that leads to problems getting out, no grinding of fenders, no fouled anchor (in the absence of pick up lines) no dysfunctional amenities (if indeed there are any) no chance of a rat coming aboard, we can make water if needed and the wind generator works better (electricity is only available in fee charging marinas). Surely there is a downside you might be thinking. Yes, we spend five minutes getting the tender off the foredeck and another five if we decide to use the egg-beater.
Back to Vonitsa. We explored the castle, empty and overgrown with weed. We and a metre long brown snake were mutually surprised as our paths crossed. We rescued a small tortoise that had fallen upside down on the hot rocky pathway. It was his or her lucky day. Some water and a shady spot perhaps just in time. We walked the lanes and the sea front along to a causeway that joined an island with a small church and plenty of fir trees. No tourists, delightful. However there were very few tavernas and the menus and food, when it came, were below par even for Greece.
There was something odd about this green water fronted seaside village. There were gum trees everywhere and their scent stirred our imaginations. The whitegoods shop had a section for choosing and ordering your Christian icon. In the hardware shop was the biggest collection of cow or goat bells you could image. And we have been bell hunting in Switzerland and the Scottish highlands, so we can claim some small degree of authority on the subject.
The distant smog lessened after Athens for a while but now it is getting worse. You notice it when out to sea and the islands that should be clearly visible are mere shadows. Ferries first appear much closer than would otherwise be the case. Eventually Paxos looms and we are fortunate that the weather forecast has been completely wrong, again. Almost no wind and it is coming from the opposite direction of the forecast. Matilda, the name we have given to our engine, chatters her mechanical melody as we waltz over a gentle sea.
Gaios on Paxos Island is dead ahead and we soon drop the pick in a good position with no other boats about. That doesn't last long and by late afternoon we have drifted over someone else's anchor and another boat over ours.
Greek kilometres are not measured as they are elsewhere in the world. They use "as the gull flies" sort of measurement. We walked one of their kilometres here at Gaios and it seemed more like five. As for gulls, they are everywhere. This delightful anchorage, next to a very pretty village, is near to a colony of raucous gulls where the young are learning how to fly. On the pebbly beach two white kid goats rear up and practice headbutting each other. They have scampered down a low rocky cliff face from a breach in the stone wall that surrounds a run-down farm just above us. The water is crystal clear again and we are soon in for a swim before the wind strengthens.
An hour by boat up to the other end of Paxos and we are anchored in the bright turquoise harbour of Lakka. The journey shows us that Paxos is well wooded which is unusual for most of the islands we have seen. We can swim to the beach but only pebbles as sand seems a rarity. The village is very quaint and soon explored. No changes since we were last here.
Gouvia marina on Corfu is the end of our Greek cruise on a journey that seems to have more legs than a bush dunny full of spiders. Everything has to be cleaned, checked and restocked, especially the beer. The Raymarine dealer is grabbed by the ear and dragged to the boat to fix the "dumb" pilot. It turns out that the problem was caused by Jeanneau in not securing part of the system properly which slowly worked lose. I have to pay to fix it because it is not covered by warranty. The genoa supplied with boat is too long in the luff and has to be fixed. It is cheaper to use the local sailmaker than to send it back under warranty. There are many other maintenance issues over the next few days.
Corfu old town and castle are worth a visit. The marina has many well behaved dogs on boats and is quieter than last August. Wifi at the marina is working this year but it is so incredible slow.
We talk to other yachties who paint a pretty picture of the Adriatic. The girls leave on Friday and the new crew start arriving the following day. But tonight we eat Indian for a welcome change!
Corinth to Navpaktos June
08 June 2009
The trip from Athens to the Corinth canal saw us pass through a huge parking lot with tankers and freighters moored near the harbour. The water along this coast has a lot of floating rubbish and care has to be taken to avoid getting it stuck in the engine seawater intake. We didn't operate the watermaker for the same reason and the danger of an oil slick which would wipe out the filters.
The Raymarine "Smart Pilot" is on the blink again so we can't use the autopilot. However the sea is calm and we eventually reach the mouth to the canal. We are lucky and are on our way in less than an hour. They have a system of lights and flags, as well as a dedicated VHF channel. Did they use them? Hey this is Greece! The flag is red, the VHF silent. We are patiently poised and tied to the dock. Alert but not alarmed you might say. We have an increasing tailwind which the guide book warns us could be dangerous. Suddenly the watch tower window above us opens and a torrent of Greek words descends upon us and the other two boats. Then they try English and it sounds like "go go go"! The flag is still red but we all set off along the five or so kilometres of this 25 meter wide link between the two seas. What an engineering feat, it's an impressive sight.
At the other end of the canal we go over to Corinth Harbour but we need 30m lines to tie up and the swell would blow us on. We turn around and head west to Limin Vouliagmeni. This is a beautiful spot and the only nearby anchorage. It lies below imposing mountains and there is an inland lake on the other side of our beach. We're a bit exposed to the south and after anchoring to the prevailing westerly it swings ... you guessed it ... south. Wherever you anchor in Greek waters, the wind will blow from all points of the compass within a 24 hour period. And do they blow.
We had our first swim for the trip that afternoon when we found that the water was nearly 28 degrees, a big improvement. That night we saw the flickering lights of old Corinth on a distant hill through a little night mist. It looked like a scene form Lord of the Rings. Mesmerising.
We set out to cross the Gulf of Corinth and picked Galaxidhi as our destination in order to do a day trip to Delphi. Delphi was well worth seeing and the views down the valley are breathtaking. In Turkey we saw poppies around the old sites, so we were pleased to see their delicate crimson faces here also.
The bus system works but needs patience. The bus leaves from outside one shop without any sign. The tickets are sold from another shop around the corner. Having bought them you find that you could have bought them on the bus and saved time. The busses go when they go and you have to be there early. Once on board, as the road twists tightly ever upward to the ruins of the famous oracle, you notice the crucifixes hung around the rear view mirrors of cars coming the other way.
The houses are different. Gone are the flat roofs and solar hot water systems that were everywhere in Turkey and to a lesser extent in eastern Greece. Houses are more attractive with an Italian influence.
Galaxidhi is a gem and warranted another night. So different from the usual tourist town and we discovered that this is where Athenians come for a weekend break. Very few signs in any other language and such a beautiful village with so much charm. Not many other cruising boats but there was an old Canadian boat with a travelling Cirque du Soleil type show that they were preparing for in a weeks time. Beryl, our senior crew member and bon vivant, was out of Dimple Haig and on a restocking mission. She found some boxes of the said tipple in a quaint little shop but to her surprise the boxes were just for display! A grog shop with no scotch! Shades of the BBC late night black comedy "The League of Gentlemen".
However, cruising the Med and taverna hopping is not all beer and skittles. At lunchtime we returned to our boat anchored in the second harbour and had only just boarded when some big gusts hit. One side of the anchor davit was bent as we were jerked in 180 degree arcs. The tender flipped over and a pair of shoes was lost. Just as well we had been rowing without the egg-beater. We had already lost the seat on the tender when it was hit by a hefty rogue wave on the foredeck a few days earlier. Note that the tender was firmly secured upside down on the foredeck. The wave had compressed the pontoons and popped the seat out from underneath.
We moved west to Navpaktos and the autopilot decided to work today. There was the usual swell and wind but some shelter off the beach. The next day we went ashore to explore this once Venetian town called Lepanto. Another gem. The miniscule but delightful harbour, bordered by old plane trees, was overlooked by an imposing castle. Still very few tourists, which made it so enjoyable. This impressive castle, overgrown with fir trees and full of rabbit droppings was empty when we called apart from two workmen having a smoko. We imagined Watership Down being played out for real every night here. Wonderful. A whole castle to yourself with birds chirping in the fir trees that gave us shade. No signs, no safety rails or ropes as you stand on the battlements high on the hill and gaze out over the sea a very long way below. Fandango, anchored on her own in the bay below, would have been a tricky shot for a cannon. Just as well we had our Greek courtesy flag up.
Mikonos to Athens May
30 May 2009
We had an easy run up to southern Mikonos where we stopped at Ornos, another "good shelter" spot that had strong gusts. We took a taxi to the chora (next to the harbour as usual) because the bus service had shut down early for siesta. There weren't too many tourists and the area had characterful narrow lanes, however it seemed to lack soul. As with most places, the last 20 years has seen many houses in the old quarters converted into tourist shops and eateries. It preserves the buildings and facades but destroys the essence of the place. We thought about taking the ferry to Delos, a restricted island, to see the ruins. There's not much left to see of this famous city and the ferry was closed for the day. If they couldn't be bothered, neither could we.
Ormos Varis on Siros had a new mini castle built over looking the bay. We explored the area and met the owner. The buildings had not been completed and were overrun with cats and weed. All a bit odd.
Ormos Kavia on Kea was reached after a six hour windy run with two metre waves but at least we got a sail up. With just the genoa we were getting 8 knots on a broad reach out of a very gusty 15 to 22 knot wind. The girls felt the boat was heeling enough without adding a reefed main.
Chapel Cove at Ormos Anavissou on the mainland was another place you needed good anchor tackle. The meltemi gets you wherever you go and in many ways spoils the afternoons and evenings. We didn't go ashore because there were no tavernas nearby but instead watched a wedding in the little church that gives the bay its name, whilst swinging wildly from our anchor. This is normal for our shape of boat in high winds. Our bow roller side extensions are now bent from the constant strain, even when using a long snubber. The pilot guide usually says "good shelter from the meltemi but gusts". We had 40 knot gusts last year at anchor but have only scored 30 so far this year.
We pushed on to Athens. The smog was bad and the water along coast was polluted with rubbish. All the marinas are normally full and we would have given this patch a miss had it not been for continual problems with our Raymarine smart pilot and plotter. We're not down to pointy things on paper yet as we have a backup computerised GPS navigation system but the Raymarine autopilot works for a while, and then the course goes haywire. The autopilot did an impromptu tight circle on the way close to the harbour. When motoring at nearly 7 knots this is not a comfortable sensation, especially on the rail tying on fenders and setting up lines.
Having fuelled up from a tanker at one marina with no berths, we found at spot at Zea marina at Piraeus, the port of Athens . It was no surprise to find that they wouldn't take credit cards for the fuel, even here in Athens. Note that in Turkey almost everyone takes credit cards. People at the quay were unhelpful and they did the hose pipe trick. There is nothing you can do to stop them ripping you off for 10 to 20 litres. It works like this. Normally the nozzle is passed to you to fill up. They insist they put the nozzle into the filler as they jump on board. This is to cover the fact that the long thick hose is empty. The fuel is turned off at the pump but the hose contents are drained into a jerry can before you arrive. When you leave the hose is now full and you find that your fuel consumption is more than normal.
The Raymarine dealer was closed despite a sign saying he was open. We managed to contact his service department but they couldn't give us a date. Getting anything done in the Med is a problem, especially Greece. We have emailed Raymarine a few times. You get no answer from Med dealers but the UK and US distributors hand out the usual "we'll get back to you" response. We didn't want to see the historic sites again so rather than hang around for a week at 40 euro a night, we did some chores and will leave for Corinth canal tomorrow.
Greece Samos to Naxos May
24 May 2009
Heather with chauffeur on Naxos
It was only a short trip from Kusadasi to Samos and we chose Pythagorio (as usual there are about ten ways of spelling this in two alphabets) home town of Pythagoras. Restaurants ringed the harbour as usual but the smell of roasting lamb had changed to grilled fish. Local conversations seemed louder as acquaintances tried to out boom each other. You can't help immediately noticing the increase in prices, fewer places taking credit cards, and the similarity with Turkish dishes, including Moussaka. Hardly surprising given the way they have swapped dominion over each other for several millennia. If you don't like chunks of tomato and thick slabs of cucumber, eating any meal out can be limiting in either country. You can understand our strong urge for Italian, the only other choice.
We had a quick look at Agathonisi and then on to Skala on Patmos. It has a fascinating monastery and shrine to St John where he did some work on his bible blog. The museum in the monastery contains ancient religious documents and objects that are very interesting. We took a taxi up and walked back down the old donkey track through the fir trees. Very enjoyable.
Seeing a weather window, we high-tailed it to Ormos Roussa on Dhenoussa. Good shelter from the Meltemi the pilot guide said but 25 knot gusts gave our wind generator plenty of power. We didn't fancy another night there.
The following day we tackled three metre waves and strong winds for five hours to reach Naxos where we anchored in the new harbour. The old town was interesting and we started to like the place. It had a very nice atmosphere and an old town full of the usual tourist shops.
Two days later we boarded a high speed ferry to re-visit Santorini (Thira). They take great delight in sounding one deafening blast for at least 30 seconds as they turn to starboard. The water surges, spume flies, the windward anchor plummets and the huge ship backs up with tail loading ramps unfolding on to the dock, like a giant praying mantis about to pick up a human feast from those waiting below. As we walked up the internal stair case to the ship's lounge I noticed the manufacturers plate, it was built in Western Australia! Well you could have knocked me over with a short length of baggywrinkle because I thought Aussie manufacturing was dead.
We sailed round the inside of Santorini's crater last year and but leaving the boat near the old town was not possible. The very high speed ferry saved time and a Meltemi head wind had we sailed back. Santorini from the crater rim is breathtaking and the old narrow lanes and carefully painted houses and walls are very picturesque. The old town is crammed with tourist shops as one would expect but fortunately there were not many tourists.
The water is invitingly blue in the sandy shallows. The weather is definitely getting warmer but still too cold for us to swim. The local kids didn't think so. Two of them swam out to our boat for a chat.
The wailing call to prayer was gone but on Sunday morning the bells kept ringing from all around. They had a certain urgency. Was it for us? Surely not.
We made friends with Yannis, the Greek waiter at an Italian restaurant near the boat. The exception to the rule, he provided excellent service and friendly banter. He even took Heather on his motor bike to a good food market at the end of our stay. The lad at the shop offered to walk our groceries back to the boat. Later, the chandlery was closed so a nearby shopkeeper phoned for the owner to open it up! Naxos was indeed a very friendly place. Perhaps they were not yet jaded by the hordes that were to descend upon them over the coming months.
Tomorrow we head north to Mykonos, light winds and a bit beamy Windguru said yesterday. The day after the Meltemi starts up again. We are at an internet café to post this blog but guess what? No wifi tonight and no one knows where the unit is, let alone how to use the reset button.
Turkey April May
19 May 2009
"Hello my friend, you look in my shop ..."
Well we did and thoroughly enjoyed the friendly and hospitable nature of the Turkish people wherever we went. It seemed much less exotic than when we had a short break in Istanbul back in 1975. No machine guns pointing at you this time. Greece and Turkey now have sister cities and the war seems a long time ago. We arrived at the right time for tulips which looked splendid in so many colours and some cherry and other blossoms. We even heard song birds that seemed absent from other parts of Europe.
We saw and marvelled at the main attractions in Istanbul. Reading up on some of the history always makes such places and museums more interesting. It was much colder than tropical OZ and we had to wear socks!
Then we flew to Cappadoccia and thoroughly enjoyed the peacefulness and fascinating caves, chimneys and tunnels in the area. When I say peacefulness, you still can't escape the call to prayer at around five in the morning. The wailing sound with a good backing would surely get a prize we thought when we were told that Turkey is proud to be included in the Eurovision Song Contest. It is said that Turkey edges towards membership of the EU but it's not likely to happen for a long while. Ataturk has been elevated to such a status that slandering him or the state will put you in jail.
We watched whirling dervishes do their stuff but they seemed to spend most of the time bowing to each other and the whirl was not as fast as one could have expected.
We flew down to Bodrum, via Istanbul. Virgin and Singapore Airlines were not fazed by my dive tank being in one of the bags. Not so Turkish Airlines who presumable thought it was a bomb. We got it through in the end. Oz won't allow non-approved tanks back in, so no point in buying one overseas.
We stayed in a small old hotel with a garden and veggie patch. Problems with water, electricity and wifi but that's normal in Turkey. We had spent many days in "Bodders" before and it soon starts to feel a bit like an old Turkish slipper.
Next it was on the Dolmus (a regular public minibus service) down to Yatlift to start work on Fandango. We were relieved to find that she was still standing, no stains on the deck, the fuel hadn't been nicked and the cabin smelt only of new varnish. The biocide had done a good job on the watermaker and water tanks. We were invited to a farewell party for one of the boats, sponsored by Yatlift, that included an attractive belly dancer.
One can't help noticing attractively made up Turkish women in western clothes, walking with others peering through layers of modesty. Part of the tessalation and tapestry that make this country so intriguing.
We (Andrew, Heather, Sheena and Beryl) launched Fandango and sailed off for a nearby anchorage only to find that the computer that controls the autopilot had packed up.
Next stop was Didim in order to see the original Apollo oracle a Didyma. We popped into the new marina that had opened only a few days ago. We were told that we were approximately boat number 20 to spend the night. The marina was vast but several things like hot water and wifi (again) were not working.
The coast line was interesting. The human guano of ugly white development is spreading but not as bad as on other parts of the Med coastline.
We stayed in the marina at Kusadasi for five days and got a few things done. The Raymarine agent fixed the autopilot but it failed again not long afterwards. Out with the book to find out more but the fluxgate compass may be the culprit.
You have to visit at least one craft centre and we chose glazed pottery. Exquisite designs, regional and historical. We also were amazed at Ephesus and Pammakale. Not too many people at the moment, well, only a dozen or so jumbo buses. Must be impossible in a couple of months.
"Goodbye my friend, you look tomorrow". But tomorrow, Saturday we head for Greece. The marina wifi is down (again, again) so this blog will be delayed.
MEET THE CREW 2009
05 January 2009
- November (ARC) & on
Jersey (British). Reputed to be the only yachty who has two pairs of carefully maintained leather Dubarry sailing boots. Trevor also has one of the most carefully maintained haircuts, less than a number one - more a number 0.75.
- October November
Phillipino/Australian. One or two of Linda's black hairs about the cabin make a pleasant change from all the grey ones. Diligent and hard working, she is good crew and kept a watchfull eye on the rest of us.
- October November
Australian. With his engineering background we got a few things sorted out. Coming from the deep north of tropical Oz, he was not keen on the colder water for swimming. As the new owner of a genuine Berber rug, he will have warm feet this winter.
- September & ARC
British. Another early retiree set on adventure but unfortunately not much for him on his short trip other than sashimi and wasabi.
Scottish. An outdoorsman and keen swimmer who kept track of daily changes in the sea temperature. Armed with this information and the rate at which he drank cups of tea, we were able tell that it was indeed getting colder as we progressed towards Gibraltar.
Swiss. Sicilian tour maestro and our sommelier. His fencing skills made him an excellent choice for cutting the salami. He even takes his own crepe pan with him on tour.
Swiss. Always laughing and cheerful. Our lead Sicilian driver. Marching and swing band music made him whistle by day and snore at night.
British. We shall miss his lairy trousers in the viewfinder and cut'n thrust at meal times. Not until his feet were firmly outside the departures gate did he ever think he would make Trapani airport.
- August & ARC
British. Our pursuit driver on the Sicilian tour. Why burn the rubber on four wheels when two will do? Our engineer, giving us more of an understanding of things whirly.
- July August
Australian. An ex-skipper of mine, persistent photographer and expert on white pointers and palacinkes. If you lose him whilst walking around, just look for the nearest ice cream vendor.
Australian. Theo's better half and our historian. Hiker and explorer with the patience of a saint. If you lose her in the crowd, try looking up to the top of the nearest high building.
British. "Last drop" Ken joins us again for more of Croatia. Bargaining hard with restaurant touts and with an ever watchful eye on astringency, he has won us a few free bottles of the local plonk.
Scottish. Being used to colder waters, he is soon lured in for a swim by the balmy 27.2 degree temperature shown on the instruments. His expletives confirm that the gauge always seems to add VAT to the real temperature.
- June July
British. A keen sailor and fisherman, he hopes each day for bream and beamy breezes but both elude him. In the cabin he is our DJ, bringing back memories from the days when there were more fish in the sea.
- May June
The skipper's mate back for more moussaka, then in July she goes to Kerala in India to recover. See last year.
- May June
Scottish/Australian. Heather's sister and long time secretary of the Ord River Yacht Club. Outback on trucks in the Kimberley, camping in the bush or messing around in boats anywhere as long as it's away from the big smoke.
- May June
Australian. It's been over twenty years since we all cruised together and we're having fun again. She is one of the best dressed crew we have had on the boat and her laundry over the rail gives Fandango a certain flair in the anchorages.
Brickbats (26) and Bouquets (8)
02 January 2009
We have arrived in a pleasant anchorage to escape the Meltemi. Fandango is head to wind in 15 knots and the anchor is ready to drop, away she goes ... "clunk" the safety latch slips and locks the gypsy on the windlass. The latch is hard to get at and it has failed before. The wind throws us off the spot so we reposition. Away she goes ... "clunk". My finger has to hold the latch clear in a dangerous position to finish anchoring. Instead of having a beer, I spend the next half hour bobbing around on the foredeck disassembling the b.... thing to get at this badly designed, disintegrating plastic latch. Care is needed with the Jesus spring and other bits to prevent them falling into the anchor locker or worse.
This is a typical situation. Most of the gear, especially the big names, is not fit for the job. It's garbage for the weekend bay sailor. Companies today spend up big on advertising at the expense of functionality and reliability. Boat equipment is serious stuff and lives depend on it. Directors of marine equipment manufacturing firms should be put out to sea for a month every year with their gear and then we might see an improvement.
If you are cruising it is not normally possible to get faulty equipment back to the sales point and therefore the warranty is worthless. It costs far more than the item is worth to sail a 1000 miles and spend a thousand dollars waiting in a dysfunctional marina to get it fixed. So you fix it yourself or replace it, if you can find a shop on your wanderings.
This list is not in any order nor does it include everything but the first entry goes to Italian QUICK ANCHOR WINCHES. The "safety" latch was not the only problem but half an hour with an angle grinder fixed the other problem which had caused the chain to jam repeatedly.
JEANNEAU for their poor customer support and causing extra costs for failing to deliver the correct parts under warranty. They put the forward lift out indicators right where the log wheel is. Their exhaust/water trap failed causing flooding of the bilges. Their anchor davit fitting and side panels are not strong enough and don't fit the anchor or Selden's prod mounting. The boat fit out was poor with ceiling panels hanging loose, screws missing from doors, the shower cupboard was not waterproof and things were not aligned properly etc etc etc. They don't always use stainless steel where they should. The teak pulpit step came off when the chrome screws rusted through. It could have killed someone using it to jump from boat to key. The spray dodger handle has fallen apart making it dangerous to use. Bad design again which I have now modified. Carbon dioxide builds up in the cabins because they have no door ventilation. The gas alarm in my cabin soon lets me know about it should I close the door! The coat hook on the back of the head door is designed to drop your clothes on the floor on starboard tack or poke you in the head if you are not steady on your feet. You can't use the head on port tack because of the location of the intake through hull.
SAILING ATLANTIC SERVICES (SAS) at les Sables d'Olonne for substandard workmanship in commissioning the boat and overcharging. After threatening legal action and some help from the dealer, they now owe me euro 365. Jeanneau have been asked to refund the difference for their agent but won't even reply.
VION for refusing to honour their warranty or provide any customer support on a faulty barometer
NAVIONICS for refusing to honour their warranty on chart cards for the plotter. A credit was obtained only when legal action was threatened against the Australian distributor. In Oz the consumer does have enforceable rights. These overpriced cards can't be backed up, they are significantly out of date and not suited to a marine environment.
RULE for a failed bilge pump switch and a failed engine compartment blower after only two months of use.
JOHNSON PUMPS for a failed bilge pump which we repaired out at sea. We were pumping water from the failed exhaust/water trap.
SELAS CHANDLERY at Kos marina for trying to sell us substandard anchor chain when we had stipulated the ISO standard. Then, when we refused to accept it, substituting it with a new chain in three pieces to be joined together.
PLASTIMO life buoys are substandard. No reflective tape or whistle, no pouch for whistle. They only fit small people so you have to add extra cord. These are authorised for marine use by the French authorities! The name plates have fallen off their compasses because the glue failed after only 10 weeks. The crutch straps on their Pilot lifejackets are completely useless. Their hand operated bilge pump is a toy and manufactured simply to comply with the regulation that one be fitted.
The authorised YANMAR SERVICE AGENT at Gouvia Marina in Corfu for trying to double the bill because we wanted a warranty stamp in our service book. (We have a bouquet for the Kos agent)
SELDEN for supplying sub standard halyards, outhaul and reefing lines with their mast and boom. These were changed without question. SAS were waiting for me to complain before changing them over. What if I had not complained? Sheaves on the boom soon stop turning with corrosion of the alloy they use. The vang was incorrectly threaded through the boom and would have snapped had the problen not been spotted. The single line reefing doesn't work which is fine because I prefer slab reefing but single line is added to the boat price. Adding a block at the foot of the mast requires special tools, heaps of patience and don't lose the fiddly bits. The vang holds the boom up but does not allow it to drop when needed. The pole track doesn't go down far enough and there is no ring for attaching the bottom end if you want to carry the pole on the mast. A rigger who checked the installation said they don't make them like they used to!
HARKEN for winches that did not work. The line stripper on the horn simply shredded the lines. Once again SAS knew they were faulty but did nothing until I complained.
UFO TV antenna. Completely useless as it blows away in anything more than 25 knots of wind. No reply to my complaint, therefore warranty worthless.
WICHARD stainless steel attachments seem to rust more than anything on the boat. Their chain hook for the snubber has a retaining pin which jams every time it is used.
RAYMARINE for faulty components and poor software. The instruments do not secure properly to the facia. The autopilot was not properly installed so they say it's Jeaneau's fault, meanwhile I'm out of pocket euro 180!
LEWMAR for side hatches that are too difficult to open and close. Also, roof hatches that have a faulty retaining clamp. We have to use bits of plastic to prop the windows open when we are parked. We have had the hatch re-riveted, stripped the hinge and reassembled it but to no avail, it's a lemon like everything else.
VODAFONE for all the hassles I have had with them.
Ekit phone cards for the problems I have had with them.
ENO gas oven for rusting away within a few months. Perhaps the Aussie authorities are right in making me throw this French one out when I get back and fit an Aussie approved one.
JABSCO toilet seat. This is made of heavy wood sprayed with paint that soon discolours. Leaving disinfectant on it for too long strips the paint back to the wood. It should be made of solid plastic like normal dunnies.
AQUA SIGNAL for navigation lights that don't take normal (male ended) festoon light bulbs. Their anchor light needs tape to hold it together. All are rusting inside already which says a lot for the gaskets.
TOPOMARINE binoculars. They didn't last 6 months before one of the lenses broke off at the thread. These are sold under various brand names but watch out for screw in lenses.
SCHAUB LORENZ TV. It never worked properly but now it doesn't work at all.
MARINA CLUB DE ALMERIA for fuel theft by the staff. They do the hose trick and cheat the club. Don't be the first to fill up here in the morning!
VDO radio. This is on the blink and needs work on the wiring at the back every so often.
RAYMARINE instruments. The instruments pop out now and then which requires 30 minutes work to re-secure them. The chart plotter data card door is not waterproof. The autopilot sometimes does unexpected 360 degree turns or returns to standby. Four technicians have looked at these things. I am out of pocket because Raymarine say Jeanneau didn't install the system properly and Jeanneau say it is a Raymarine problem.
The GORI PROPELLER agent in Melbourne, MICHAEL BLAIR from YANMAR, for tremendous help in getting the right prop plus spares freighted direct from the Gori factory in Denmark. Jeanneau gave us the wrong ratios etc but Michael's research saved the day.
MASSIMO COLASBERNA (email@example.com ) a marine electronics technician in Palermo, who went out of his way in helping us fix the problem we had with a Navionics data card.
DR STAMATIS G. PERIDIS, the dentist in Rhodes who did an excellent and speedy job on my root canal filling for a lot less than it would cost in Oz. The dentist in Oz was also pleased with his work.
BABIS MARICOU (+30 6944 841964) who serviced our YANMAR at Kos marine, for doing a very thorough and careful job.
SUKRU YUCEL at Yatlift in Turkey for his attention to detail and being such a nice bloke.
The manager at the Kardesler Restaurant on the beach at Karaincir (Aspat) for coming out to our boat to pick us up for dinner and take us back. How's that for service free of charge? Another enterprising Turk.
YANNIS, the waiter at the Relax Restaurant in Naxos for being so helpful.
BENALNAUTIC at Benalmadena, southern Spain. Roberto, the boss of this Jeanneau distributor and Mark his assistant managed to get some warranty issues sorted out but the guy who did the work, Francisco, was amazing. Fast and precise, I wish we could have one like him in the tool kit.
The Voyage to Bodrum
31 December 2008 | August 8th
Below: Skorpios in the Ionian, population 2
GETTING TO LES SABLES
It was surprisingly easy getting Australian registered radios, sat phone, an EPIRB that looks like a bomb and heaps of other suspicious looking items to Les Sables d'Olonne via two Australian ports, then Tokyo, London and Paris in the cabin baggage. However, I couldn't convince the Japanese that 100ml of scotch in a 300ml plastic container was OK, so I drank the scotch in front of them and they took the bottle. At Tokyo and London I couldn't be bothered emptying out my cabin baggage yet again and it just passed through without a query. At Charles de Gaul airport, the customs and immigration people were having an extended siesta so I just walked straight through. So much for the concerted effort against terrorism.
I hired a car to complete my journey and visited one of the Jeanneau factories on the way to Les Sables. They wouldn't let me see the 39's but they used a lot of Sicaflex on the boats I saw.
Fandango looked really beautiful to me in the cold wet weather, despite the fact that she had not been cleaned. Nestled in amongst the other new boats waiting for attention, a year of planning was transmogrified before me. I embraced her, well mentally. I called this arm of the marina, the Nursery. This was where new owners (some boats were to be delivered by professionals) came to live on their boats for a few days and bond with the new member of their family. The maternity ward staff, Sailing Atlantic Services, were preparing the boats for their maiden voyages. The quality of their care was clearly not up to private health standards.
It was extremely frustrating dealing with the French. I bought as much as I could from the UK, and elsewhere. Most purchases of larger items were arranged before I left Oz. For example, a complete wardrobe of sails was flown from Australia at a considerable saving on the local price from the same company franchise in France (both tax free).
The preparation seemed to go on for ever, with items that I had no choice but to order from French chandleries being delayed. It was now time to christen the boat. Lydie, a French friend of mine from the Whitsundays and Vero, also French from Canberra were staying nearby. The sun shone and Lydie did the honours. We enjoyed lovely cheeses and champers that afternoon with Kiwis Allan and Pauline from a 54DS in the nursery.
The crew started arriving and just before we were ready to leave, the fishermen decided to blockade the harbour. The coastguard and other authorities were stranded and some boats were refused entry into the port. In other parts of the world the fishermen would be arrested but in France, non. After a few days and some bargaining, a convoy of nursery boats was allowed to leave before the port was to be closed indefinitely.
Fandango had not been sea-trialed and we were heading out to cross the Bay of Biscay. As a teenager I had been here in a force 10 but in a small ship and that was rough enough. The weather window and time of year were good. We had a plan in case trouble developed in the first few hours but it didn't. The crew worked well together. We had an easy trip with some good sailing and reached Corunna for a little celebration.
Oleg could only arrange a short time with us but it was potentially the most dangerous part, excluding Mission Impaella. We were sorry to see him leave at Cascais, next to Lisbon.
The rest of the Atlantic was also forgiving and we made good time to Gibraltar. The ancient parts of sea ports are always fascinating. We travelled inland and thoroughly enjoyed Coimbra and Seville on the way.
After a few days in Gib, Paul and Mario headed back to Europe. The watermaker was too hard for the French to understand, so it was given to the Brits at Gib to fabricate parts and mount the components. A very neat job was done. Apart from grog and smokes, everything seemed expensive in Gib. Ah, but it's the freight they say. I wonder if the pallets of grog float themselves round Cape Finistere.
It was interesting to see how the level of building had increased since I was last there. Now that Spain has given up trying to get The Rock back, the developers are churning out little bits of Britain for sun seekers and tax dodgers.
Whilst in Gib we were invited to join the Gib to Morocco Rally. How could you refuse such a friendly bunch of yachties? It was a good deal of fun and we met some very nice people. The organisers found another crewmember, the lovely Just(ine). She had never sailed before but took the 30 knot headwinds and two metre white caps in her stride when we crossed back to Gib. I was glad that we couldn't quite get 10 camels for her in the souk we visited down the coast from Smir. Although her boyfriend, who was not with us on the trip, said five camels would have been more than enough.
Charlie and I were not interested in the fleshpots of Costa del Sol (yes, honestly) and so hiked up to Puerto de Calpe before chucking a rightie off to Formentera. There are plenty of nude beaches in the Balearics. The sheltered and picturesque Calas were just what we wanted. We could easily see the anchor on the sandy bottom and the sun bathers, beaches and cafes were an easy swim away.
It was a shame that there were few fish to look at or interesting underwater sights for snorkellers. Above the water there was usually a haze that limited visibility, probably pollution blowing down from the European land mass. It got worse as we approached Italy and Greece.
Since we left Les Sables, we had noticed a big blue arrow on the chart plotter indicating an exceptionally favourable set. We called it our blue tongue lizard (Oztralian reptile). It was of course due to the system not being set up properly in France. Even the expert in Gib said you couldn't adjust it. If all else fails.... and eventually a quiet spot was found after Gib, where we could recalibrate the impeller with the system and our blue tongue lizard started behaving normally. This ratio should be known to Jeanneau for each boat and they should key it in at the factory. Therefore, the log shows fewer miles than we actually did.
Eventually we reached the big smoke of La Palma. The old town was fascinating and only a short walk from the marina. Charlie finally got a decent paella before leaving to get married.
I took on two professional crew (no wages) needing a lift to Corfu. Glenn a petrol headed Kiwi and Jacqueline (Jackie) a German hostess and deckhand who spoke fluent Italian. This was very useful because we found most Italians in Sardinia and Sicily spoke little English. Jackie managed to hook the guys as tour guides and taxis and loved partying late with them for their help.
Porto Cervo, on the NE tip of Sardinia is where you have to be seen. So many mega-million dollar yachts bristling with crew. Fandango was barely big enough to be a tender for some of the yachts. Roadside pavements in the village were few because everyone drove in chauffeured limos. When you booked at a restaurant you booked the car parking first if you couldn't afford a chauffer to come back for you. One high profile Arabian owner had guards with machine guns patrol the cordoned off area at the end of his yacht. His gleaming late model Rolls and Masserati awaited his pleasure but which one should he use for the restaurant that night?
Isola Tavolara, south of Olbia, is a breathtaking chunk of rock that soars from the blue sea and disappears into foaming clouds that cling to its elongated peak. This tumbling storm cloud is caused by the air that hits its long steep face being forced so high and so quickly. Slowly the ends of the cloud wisp away and fade in the clear sky. We spent that afternoon and night watching its moods. Another cruising gem.
As we approached Sicily it was time to change over the Navionics chart plotter card. To my amazement it showed no details when zooming in for coastal features. We pulled into Palermo to get a new one. I am still fighting for the warranty on this, yet another piece of defective equipment.
A lovely stop was Cefalu with its Norman church that was still in service and quaint village square and old town full of tourist shops. People still live in the ancient teetering houses with elaborate balconies overshadowing tight alleyways. Tourism, destroyer and preserver, has ensured that these buildings will survive.
Isola Volcano was where we, you guessed it, climbed the volcano. Nothing bubbling in the crater but plenty of sulphureous fumes that others seemed unconcerned about.
The Straits of Messina are steeped in warnings of whirlpools and strong winds. We sailed over one whirlpool, now very benign, dodging the strangest of fishing craft with enormous pulpits for harpooning fish. Subterranean activity has tamed the force that once frightened ancient mariners. The winds did come up as we realised there was nowhere to anchor. Fandango has no bowthruster, so her lightness and fairly high windage makes her dance when trying to manoeuvre in tight situations. A folding prop doesn't help in reverse but I am getting used to backing this high spirited mare into her stable, when forced away from the open paddock.
Glenn, married, was supposed to be looking after Jackie for her boyfriend but they became an item. For more than three weeks they were a great help but were thrown off just before the two day trip to Corfu when her behaviour and their drunkenness threatened our safety.
I decided to do the two day sail to Corfu on my own. It was a truly wonderful experience despite a few hours of rough weather early the following morning. I was interested to find that berthing for fuel and backing into the marina pen were easier without crew. Conditions were light but having to watch others and repeat instructions can be a hindrance when wriggling into a new pen. Having said that, nothing beats being able to rely on deckhands with heaps of experience in tying up.
Corfu, another charming "old town" and dysfunctional marina toilets to explore. With cricket played by the castle and croquet lawns behind the marina at Gouvia, this was where a chap could take tea and read the Times.
But first the boat had to be cleaned thoroughly, balloons blown and everything made Bristol fashion. Heather was about to arrive.
Heather has sailed and overnighted on boats. She has canoed and rafted. But on reflection, her considered opinion is that she doesn't like the wobbly bits. The voyage now changed from passage making to cruising.
A husky, luscious voice repeats the call "Tall Sheeps" on the radio for the start of another weather report. I think of the Sirens and ancient mariners. I think also of a wooden boat that we saw being rowed out of Gaios on Paxos. It was a reproduction of an ancient galley, probably doing a re-enactment. We left a day later to do the nearly 100 nautical miles down to Ithaki (Ithaca) and there she was! What a feat.
Greek names vary from map to map and chart to chart. There are lots of Vathi's. It can be confusing. Try Khania, Hania, Chanea and everything in between and then add the names using their own alphabet. It's the old capital on Crete with its characterful old harbour.
Stopping at delightful spots on the way down to Crete, we visited Knossos, a Mecca for Mary Renault fans. Then up to Santorini (Thira) and round its crater rim. There were very few places to anchor inside the rim and none available. You could be 30 metres from the sheer rock face and yet have more than 100 metres of water beneath you.
We explored the ancient cities of Rhodes with its stone balls and Kos. Kos had less to offer for explorers of old towns but it was very pleasant. Both were hard for finding a berth, even for Fandango's modest 12 metres. In Rhodes we anchored deep inside one of the harbours and rolled and pitched most of the time.
We used Rhodes, Kos and Bodrum to pick up guests who joined us for about a fortnight each and helped us enjoy the trip: Stan & Suzanne from Melbourne, Charlie and Antje from Fremantle and Ken and Jackie from Ledbury.
The Turks were far more welcoming than the Greeks. Their pontooned waterside eateries made it easy to enjoy their hospitality with a free berth. These small villages, or often nothing more than a settlement, were intrinsic interludes. The patron and perhaps male members of his family will join you for a drink after dinner and speak candidly about their lives and what it means to be Turkish, "We are not Arabs".
Danger lurks here not so much under the surface, where the chart plotter is occasionally wrong, but on the surface with high powered gulets and their erratic interpretation of the collision regulations. These beautiful large wooden cruising boats, some private but most on group charters, add colour to the region.
The Greeks and Turks fly their national flags from wherever they can. A combination of pride and a reminder of territorial rights. I won't go into any detail on the boating permit systems each country has.
Ancient ruins are everywhere. The most spectacular in Turkey so far were the ruins at Knidos. In Airlie Beach, local plumbers often have trouble installing rooves that don't leak or a plumbing system that works. The Greeks and Persians were able to do these things successfully 5,000 years ago. Where have we gone wrong?
Greek and Turkish food is not exactly haut cuisine and it seems the same wherever you go. Whether one frequents the tourist restaurants, surrounded by touts and chips with every meal, or wander away to find something more original, it's all the same. We enjoyed moussaka whether Greek or Turkish. The fish unfortunately is very expensive because the Med must be almost fished out.
The call to prayer followed us everywhere in Turkey, even to Yatlift near Bodrum where Fandango was tucked up for the winter. In the old harbour at Bodrum, the loudspeakers echo from one side to the other but we never saw anyone on a prayer mat.
BACK TO OZ
We flew to Athens and revisited the ruins that we always find fascinating. It is hard to reconcile the precision and craftsmanship of the ancient Persians, Greeks, Romans and Venetians (sorry if I have left anyone out) to the ugly mess that is being built today.
On our way back to Oz, we stopped at Siem Reap for a few days and became engulfed in this enigmatic sandstone wonderland and the lovely people who survived their holocaust.
20 December 2008
The Fandango is an ancient dance and style of music. Like the famous "Bolero", it increases in velocity and intensity to a stunning climax. Sailing is like dancing and the Fandango is no ordinary dance as it zig zags its way in a spectacular display of manoevrability. It varies a little between the Basque Country (where we started sailing) and Spain (don't mention the Paella) and Portugal. It can be a competitive dance or a lover's dance.
"We skipped the light Fandango
Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor"
However, it can also mean a "big fuss" or a "great exploit". We have had some hassle with the boat and it will certainly be a great exploit to sail such a long trip.
Meet the BOAT
20 December 2008
Fandango is a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 39i (12m) made at Cholet in France and delivered in April 2008 at Les Sables d'Olonne on the coast, towards the top of the Bay of Biscay. We left on Thursday May 15th after negotiating a temporary lifting of the fishermen's blockade of the river entrance, by a long steel cable. These blockades were to affect other areas.
We have had some problems with the boat and there are some improvements needed here and there. Overall, we are happy with boat and she should be just the ticket for the Whitsundays in tropical Oz. She is not a blue water boat, so we hope that we can avoid bad weather on her voyage back to Oz. If you are interested in buying or already own a Jeanneau, please look at the Owners Club for issues and tips at link
The highest failure rate goes to the can opener, which we don't use very often. We are on our fifth one.
We have all the usual gear including mobile and fixed VHF with cockpit extension, Wide Band receiver
(inc SSB for weather) Sat Phone, EPIRB, Radar, Navtex, Raymarine C80 plotter with integrated MOB tags, Autopilot, separate Computer & Nav Software with 2nd GPS, handheld 3rd GPS unit, Sat & Mobile phone links to computer, small inverter, AM/FM radio, TV, CD, DVD, iPod, fax, scanner and printer. We also carry charts for passages, pilots and other guides.
She has a six man offshore liferaft with manual desalinator, extra water and food. This is kept in a dedicated transom locker. A four man RIB mounts on the foredeck. We use the pole topper to hoist it on board which is quick and easy. The outboard is a light weight Honda 2.3hp air cooled little gem. We row whenever we can and the RIB makes this easier than you would think.
We have a Duogen 12v generator. This works in the water and an air blade can be fitted for working out of the water, although this is not as effective.
Fandango has twin helms with twin instrumentation and twin compasses. Also emergency tiller, steering drogues, sea anchor and two 35lb Manson Supreme (Lloyds approved) anchors. The bower has 60m of 10mm chain and the kedge has 25m of 8mm chain and 40m of 14mm nylon. We carry spare lengths of 25m of 8mm chain and 40m of 14mm nylon, as well as 40m of 18mm nylon for extending the rode in a severe storm. We use shackles and gal thimbled eye splices for the nylon sections. The windlass has been modified to make this easier to handle (this Quick model was badly designed anyway). The extra detail is for anchor buffs.
Andrew is a divemaster and the boat carries scuba gear.
Sails include two mains, both tripple reefed and one with Selden track cars for easy hoist and drop. For the foredeck, we have a twin grooved furler, two genoas, reacher, jib, cruising shute with prod, pole and stormsail.
Everyone has a manually inflating PFD with harness and three point strop. Jackstays are set permanently. Lifelines can be dropped for recovery and we have an MOB lift system. Lifebuoy and attachments, Lifesling and throwing lines are easy to deploy.
There are two comfortable double-berthed cabins and we can put a single and a double in the saloon if necessary. We have one head, a separate shower cubicle and an engine driven watermaker operating at 76 lt/hr.
We have a decent sized electric fridge for the Guinness with ice tray for the martinis, gas oven with twin burners and when we have shore power, we use an electric keetle and toaster.
If you have never been sailing before or were put off by cramped conditions on an older boat, we think you'll be pleasantly surprised how comfortable it is on Fandango. Check out the boat by clicking on "Boat Layout & Specifications" under the Chart Table heading.
MEET THE CREW 2008
20 December 2008 | Past & Present
The Original Crew
There are crew and there are guests. Crew need some sailing experience and are expected to stand night watch when required. Guests need no sailing skills and are welcome on the easier legs. However we'll call them all crew to make it easier. We normally have no more than four people on board (POB).
In order of joining Fandango:
British/Australian. The skipper, on his latest adventure. Complains a lot about dysfunctional gear. Likes chillies with paella. In fact, likes almost everything hot and spicy.
British/Australian. Adventurer and inventor. Orange inside and out. Holds the record for stacking the most fruit into a dessert bowl. Uses the mantra "Paella" when cruising eateries.
Brazilian/Canadian. Techo professor. Very relaxed. His snoring was so loud it interfered with the sonar. Likes chips and coke with a little paella.
Ukrainian/Canadian. Another techo. Ex military, the sort of guy you want on your
side. A key operative in Mission Impaella.
Romanian/Australian. Oil diviner, roving Wikipedia, our tour guide and Telstra's biggest customer. Paella gourmet.
British. Translator. Never sailed. After the initial briefing she asked if she should also pee off the transom when conditions allowed. Gud on yer mate.
East German. "Ve invented ze nudity". Unfortunately, after a few weeks she turned into a nightmare and was dumped in Italy.
Kiwi. He was supposed to be looking after Jacqueline for his mate, Jacqueline's boyfriend. However, he stuffed up, got drunk and nearly jailed. He was jettisoned with Jacqueline.
Scottish/Australian. Skip's wife. Skip's mother was Scottish too. Artist and will try anything. Experienced some rough stuff offshore and then decided that she absolutely loves sailing as long as it's fairly calm and the motor is on. Enjoys the boat and doesn't get seasick.
Polish/Australian. Documented adventurer and old salt. Skip's first regular skipper from the SYC in Melbourne. Ask him about anchoring.
Australian. Stan's wife. Adventurer, artist and published and prized author. Ask her about anchoring too.
Danish/Australian. Charlie liked sailing on Fandango so much that he hopped off to get married and brought his beautiful bride back.
Scottish. Ken's partner. Tessellates well and has done more travelling than Sputnik.
British. A leading authority on draught and bottled beers and has a T shirt for most of them. Enjoys a malt too.
20 December 2008
... girt by sea ...
If you see Fandango, give us a wave. Hopefully there will be someone keeping a lookout. As an Australian private boat under 24m, we can fly either the blue or red ensign. We have both in case one gets nicked. The red one makes EU formalities a little easier because, at a glance, they think we are Brits. The red one also lulls the Brits into a false sense of security when they see us at a distance.
We speak English and Strine, as well as menu French & Spanish (especially Paella). We understand broad Scottish accents.
Email: fandangomail AT zoho.com (no size limits, we screen before receiving if necessary) AT=@ to stop address here being scanned into a database
Sat Phone voice: now disconnected
Sat Phone email: now firstname.lastname@example.org (max 160 characters). This is free to both sender and us. Please include phone number and country code so that we can text you back, as email from the Sat phone is expensive.
We have VHF of course and can listen on SSB but cannot transmit on SSB, so we have no callsign.